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The name 'Kapunda' is believed to have derived from the phrase "Cappie Oonda" - an aboriginal expression for 'water jumping out' - which possibly related to the fact that numerous natural springs and soaks were dotted around the town with water literally bubbling from the ground in places and local creeks and the River Light receiving natural bursts from underground reserves.

Kapunda has a rich and interesting history. It was the first commercial copper mining town in South Australia, soon after Charles Bagot discovered copper ore on the surface of grazing pastures in 1842. Commercial mining began in 1844 and continued until 1878 when world copper prices fell and rising water at the mine diggings became a problem. Revenue from Kapunda's high grade copper saved the South Australian colony from bankruptcy. When the railway was established in 1860, Kapunda became the rural centre for the Mid-North and at one time Kapunda was the largest populated town outside of Adelaide.

Mary MacKillop

maryThe Sisters of the Order of St Joseph arrived in Kapunda in 1868 and soon numerous Catholic schools were established in Kapunda and the region under the supervision of Mary MacKillop. After the schools were established Mary returned regularly to inspect and check on their progress. None of those schools are operational in Kapunda today. During this period of educational expansion she was known to walk between Kapunda and Gawler to preserve the church's precious funds.

The 'Mary MacKillop Walk' was named in her honour and is the original road traveled by Mother Mary and Catholic parishioners who made the regular journey from Kapunda on foot, or by horse and cart, to attend mass at St John's Catholic Church. Frequent dangerous conditions crossing the River Light and a growing congregation eventually lead to Father Ryan securing a block of land in Kapunda where a new St Rose's Catholic Church was built. The Mary MacKillop Walk or drive is 4.7 kms.

Mary MacKillop was responsible for converting the old St John’s Church into a Girls Reformatory School. During the time of renovation she was refused accommodation at St Rose’s Convent in Kapunda due to a dispute with the local priest relating to her outspoken beliefs about the education girls at the Reformatory would receive. Mary spent three harsh months living at the site whilst construction went on around her.

A property in Hogan Street, Kapunda was purchased in Mary MacKillop’s name for use as a Convent. Mary MacKillop was canonised as Australia’s first Saint on 17th October 2010.


Kapunda and the Mary MacKillop Connection; Peter J Swann; Making a Diff, 2010.
The History of Kapunda; Rob Charlton; Lutheran Publishing House 1971.