The 2023 Australia Day Program was guided by two overarching themes, Belonging to Country, and Connecting to Nature.

Aus Lights on the River was a two-day program held on Wednesday 25 January and Thursday 26 January. The program showcased Our SA Story through immersive visually engaging light, vision, and sound installations supported with complimentary children’s activations.  Thank you to the  33,000 people who attended Aus Lights on the River across 25 and 26 January 2023.  Thank you to the 3,200 people who attended Mourning in the Morning Smoking Ceremony on 26 January 2023

Program Highlights

Aus Lights on the River

Including Cinematic Fireworks Display held in Elder Park / Tarntanya Wama 25 & 26 January

Tindo Utpurndee

Sunset Ceremony

Held in Elder Park / Tarntanya Wama on 25 January

Mourning in the Morning

Smoking Ceremony

Held in Elder Park / Tarntanya Wama 26 January

Respecting Country Parade

Held on 26 January

Official Ceremony

Held in Elder Park / Tarntanya Wama on 26 January

Food Hub and Live Entertainment

Held in Elder Park / Tarntanya Wama on 25 and 26 January

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Aus Lights on the River Program Details

Message from the CEO

The Aus Lights program enabled us to reflect on this great land and its peoples, starting with the oldest living cultures, our First Nations, to our most recent arrivals, the refugees fleeing from Ukraine and Afghanistan who now call Australia home.

This Australia Day was an opportunity to reflect on how we can continue to deepen our connection to nature and belonging to Country. Our increasingly fragile world reminds us all of the extraordinary beauty, richness, and expansiveness of our great country and the incredible diversity of its peoples. We can look back at our history, acknowledge the times we are now living through, and manifest our future on the foundations of respect, inclusivity and shared values.

Jan Chorley, CEO Australia Day Council of SA

River Red Gum Story

Karra the River Red Gum - Rotunda Story “I see, I witness”

Trees hold the memories of time. Their rhythmic cycles are tuned to all living things across the generations. As the historians of humanity, they hold a cultural timeline of ceremony and connection to the land which is sacred. How does one tiny seed out of so many find a space in the light to become an ancient river redgum, seething with life, so many hundreds of years old?

Thousands that attendeed Aus Lights on the River explored how the beautiful spaces inside this magnificent tree become a giant habitat with a community of interconnected species that grow and change along with the tree. They are gifts to one another as each makes unique and incremental renovations that pave the way for the next.

Creative team: Susanne Wegener, Luke Zero Shaw, Alice Peacock – Illuminart- stories in light, Karl Winda Telfer YELLAKA – ‘Old Wisdom-New Ways’, Kristen Messenger – Bugsnslugs Science Communication

See yourself in the Australian Story - Moving Image Screen

See yourself in the Australia Story - Moving Image Screen

From afternoon until late thousands of attendees experienced the Moving Image Screens that shared a flowing spring of ideas, thoughts, stories moving between people. 

The gently sloping riverbank offered a place for thousands of attendees to come and sit, and immerse in as many minutes or hours as they wished.

This screen installation part immersive video experience shared alternating live views of cultural and ceremonial moments with curated films and photographs, the multi-screen display was a space to sit, listen and discover the diverse places and people of SA. 

Creative team: Luke Zero Shaw, Alice Peacock – Illuminart – stories in light, Karl Winda Telfer YELLAKA – ‘Old Wisdom-New Ways’ 

Kurru Kari - Festival Centre Shells
Light & Projection Story

Kurru Kari - Turning Circle - The Six Cultural Seasons - Festival Centre Shells

Light and projection combined the unique colours and rhythmical patterns of weather and movement in this creative representation of the traditional owners’ lore of the six seasons as known across the Adelaide Plains. The movement of the people was guided by the observation of spirit, place, and the environmental elements that were land, sea, and sky country.

The idea of four seasons came here with European settlers but this country has its own beating pulse which influences the elements and animals. A projection that offered understanding and respect for the cultural knowledge and stories of this ancient changing cultural landscape. This installation provided bi-cultural ways of understanding.

Creative team: Luke Zero Shaw, Alice Peacock – Illuminart – stories in light, Karl Winda Telfer YELLAKA – ‘Old Wisdom-New Ways’

Festival Centre Shells

Kurru Kari Paltinna - Six Seasons of turning sound - Soundscape

Discover the six cultural seasons through sound, seeing, and feeling through pods of memory. 

As we came together, we sat, listened, and learned as we took a breath … and dived into the cultural soundscape and song of old, told in new ways. 

We heard the seasonal sounds of the landscape that accompanied the flowing symbols projected in vibrant light across the Festival Centre Shells. 

The stirring of animals and sculpted shapes of weather formed an integral part of the spirit of nature and the living culture which guided attendees through the cyclic movements of Kari Kurru Paltinna the six seasons of time and place.

Our thoughts and feelings were inspired by these breathtaking songs of the land, emphasised by the evocative light interpretations that adorned the Shells.

Creative team: Luke Zero Shaw – Illuminart – stories in light, Karl Winda Telfer YELLAKA – ‘Old Wisdom-New Ways’

Nylon Zoo
Underwater Story

Underwater Story Space

Thousands joined the Giant Turtle in an imaginative and educational journey. This inflatable storytelling theatre enabled all to celebrate the biodiversity of animals we share Country with.

Attendees choose costumes and explored animals through movement and story within the group.

This immersive experience was augmented by beautiful underwater soundscapes designed to inspire us in taking care of habitats. All discovered creatures like the whale, shark, platypus, Murray Cod and seagull.

Creative team: Luke Zero Shaw – Illuminart – stories in light, Evelyn Roth – Nylon Zoo

Nylon Zoo


Young people and families explored the garden up close like a bee. All ventured through a magically magnified microcosm to learn all about natural habitats in a very tactile way.

In this unique inflatable maze experience, all enjoyed the various parts of a flower in fabulous detail. All explored a garden in need of nurturing and life and all discovered the secret stories of biodiversity, in an innovative immersive space created by textile artist, Evelyn Roth. 

 Creative team: Evelyn Roth – Nylon Zoo

Nylon Zoo
Bushland Creatures

Bushland Creatures

Thousands explored a variety of colourful supersized Bushland Creatures found in the surroundings of the Ecomaze. These animals and their habitats formed part of the immersive learning experience within the Ecomaze.

A unique soundscape of the South Australian bush accompanied attendees as they meandered amongst the brilliant Bushland Creatures. Hearing the sounds of these gorgeous native animals reminded all of their habitats and celebrated the biodiversity of South Australia. All encountered the flying fox, ruby roo, dingo, quoll and bilby.

Creative team: Evelyn Roth Nylon Zoo, assisted by Illuminart – stories in light

Kids Craft Activities

Hands on creative making

Thousands joined the interactive space for families and children and were creative with hearts and hands!

Attendees connected with nature by playfully exploring curious and interesting selection of organic and touchy-feely materials to co-create a large art piece. All met the artists and collaboratively created a unique and distinctive installation that grew into a beautiful and unexpected piece of art during the two day festival.

Artists quote: “Gum Leaves are an iconic symbol of Australia’s unique nature which connects country and communities. On the macro level, we are all unique and individual just like each gum leaf; however, we are all connected and one in our togetherness and common humanity like the gum leaves together on a branch or tree. We are inviting the public to decorate the giant gum leaves displayed to represent the unique and individual character of each leaf/person. The giant gum leaves are displayed together in a circle to represent this cyclic togetherness of us all.”

Creative team: Monica Prichard and Michelle Jahn – Exclusive Illuminations

Illuminated Country

Illuminated Country

Existing reflections form layers across landscapes. We reflected on the meaning of Country and created new reflections on the river.

On the far bank, the light spilt upwards from the trunks of the trees into the foliage, casting reflections into the river as water and light combine to share stories and contemplations through time.

The illumination that spilt across the water spelt out Country. The illumination created a space for us to reflect on our place in Country.

Everything in nature is connected, the land, sea, and sky countries are all one. The river is a song of fresh water that provides a sparkling space for us to reflect on our place in Country.

What does Country mean to you?

Cinematic Firework Display

Cinematic Firework Display

Thousands experience the captivating colours, rhythms and seasons of our expansive landscape, were expressed through an original piece of synchronized music, moving images and fireworks composition created especially for Aus Lights on the River 2023. 

This ten minute display expressed the diversity of nature, culture, and the impressive and inspirational visual themes of our country, places and people who call it home. 

The display brought together the talents of Howard and Sons, Illuminart – stories in light, composer Pete Ardron and vocalist Samantha Ray, to build a piece that expressed and reflected our precious and unique corner of Australia.

Creative team: Luke Zero Shaw, Alice Peacock, Pete Ardron, Samantha Ray – Illuminart stories in light, Howard and Sons, Karl Winda Telfer YELLAKA – ‘Old Wisdom-New Ways’ (25 January only)

Acknowledgement of Sponsors:

Tindo Utpurndee

Sunset Ceremony

Held on 25 January

Elder Park - Tarntanya Wama

Tindo Utpurndee - Sunset Ceremony

Country / Recovery / Culture / Truth

11,000 people attended this unique experience to watch Tindo Utpurndee – Sunset Ceremony in Elder Park / Tarntanya Wama led by Karl Winda Telfer.  This Ceremony was punctuated by outstanding speakers Tanya Hosch Leader, Changemaker, Visionary & SA State Recipient Australian of the Year 2021 and Shona Reid, Guardian for Children and Young People in South Australia.

As the sun began to fall on the evening of the 25 January, attendees were invite to Tindo Utpurndee – Sunset Ceremony in Elder Park/Tarntanya Wama to witness, recognise and listen to the voices of recovery from First Nations’ Peoples.

When you walk in someone else’s country, it is always important to walk softly and respectfully.

This place holds many ancient stories, and Tindo Utpurndee is one of these, which speaks of spirit, truth, and recovery. Tindo Utpurndee (this Ceremony) provided an opportunity to gain a deeper bi-cultural understanding of our ancient landscape. Voices of the first peoples and sharing of truth from First Nations leaders. Past, Present and Future generations still seeking recognition, respect, and reciprocity for recovery.

Led by Burka, Senior man Karl Winda Telfer, Mullawirra Meyunna – Dry Forest People with YELLAKA – ‘Old Wisdom-New Ways’ (Kaurna Meyunna)

Acknowledgement of Sponsors:

Mourning in the Morning

Smoking Ceremony

Held on 26 January

Elder Park / Tarntanya Wama

Mourning in the Morning – Smoking Ceremony

Up to 3,500 people listened, learned and paid their respects to our First Nations culture and communities by attending the Mouring in the Morning Smoking Ceremony.  

Attendees gathered from 7am on the morning of 26 January for a Smoking Ceremony at Tarntanya Wama (Elder Park). This profound ceremony shaped by First Nations leaders was a time for truth telling of our history and provided a genuine opportunity for reconciliation. The 26 January signifies the day the first fleet set foot on our shores – the day the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities changed forever. We seek to reconcile the devastating impacts this brought to First Nations peoples. To the nation, we have become and the country we hope to be.

This one-hour event opened with the Four Direction Ceremony presented by Uncle Moogy Sumner AM, followed by a powerful speaker’s address presented by April Lawrie, Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People, and mesmerising performances by the Iwiri Choir and Nancy Bates.


Acknowledgement of Sponsors:

Respecting Country Parade

Held on 26 January

Along King William Street into Elder Park / Tarntanya Wama

Respecting Country Parade

A vibrant cultural procession full of colour, music and dance that comprised of up to 60 South Australian communities  came together to celebrate the diversity and richness of our state in the spirit of inclusion and respect on 26 January.  

In a first the Respecting Country Parade began with the cultural ceremony A Greeting to Spirit of Place, led by Karl Winda Telfer/Traditional Owner/Kaurna Meyunna brought together all parade communinties to pay respect to country and honour the ancestors of this ancient land.  t This colourful line of peoples travelled along King William Street merging into Elder Park Tarntanya Wama celebrating the diversity of communities and cultures in South Australia.

The Parade began with the South Australian Migrant and Refugee Story and Our Ancestral Story, followed by South Australian at their Best, highlighting both large and small community organisations, performers and charities that contribute to our state.

Creative team: Ali Jones and Karl Winda Telfer YELLAKA – ‘Old Wisdom-New Ways’

Starting corner of King William and War Memorial Drive - finishing in Elder Park

Acknowledgement of Sponsors:

Official Ceremony

Held on 26 January

In Elder Park / Tarntanya Wama

Official Ceremony

Connecting to Nature and Belonging to Country.

The Aus Lights on the River Official Ceremony 2023 saw thousands of people listen to a diversity of speakers from different backgrounds and experiences including the Premier of South Australia Mr Peter Malinauskas MP in Elder Park / Tarntanya Wama on 26 January.  The audience experienced a profound Welcome to Country presented by Uncle Moogy Sumner AM, reflections by the Premier of South Australia Mr Peter Malinauskas MP, Lord Mayor Jane Lomax – Smith and community representatives Fahima Ahmadi, Bernadette Belej and Kate Bartlett.

Thousands present were treated to melodic performances by Iwiri Choir, the Young Adelaide Voices and Gospo Collective together with conductor Julian Ferraretto and the Adelaide Global Collective. 

Acknowledgement of Sponsors:

Food Hub and Live Entertainment

Held on 25 & 26 January

In Elder Park / Tarntanya Wama

Food Hub and Live Entertainment

The Aus Lights Food Hub was filled with flavours from around the world. The Food Hub was open across 25 and 26 January from 5.30pm until late and included Paella, Gozleme, Indian, Kransky hotdogs, Moroccan and much more. A licensed bar was located in the food hub for drink purchases.

Thousands that immersed in Aus Lights on the River grabbed some food and a drink and listened to iconic Australia tunes from DJ Tommy Tequila.

Acknowledgement of Sponsors:

Event Photography and Video Footage

Professional photography and video was taken for promotional purposes at this event. The photos and video footage may be used on the organisers social media, website, and other promotional avenues such as news media and TV. Visitors and exhibitors who do not consent to be filmed or photographed should advise the photographer or videographer at the event.

Elder Park / Tarntanya Wama Accessibility

Caters for people who use a wheelchair.
Caters for people who are deaf or have hearing loss.
Caters for people who are blind or have vision loss.