Fleurieu Peninsula

South Australian town becomes Australia’s first International Dark Sky Community

Carrickalinga has achieved certification as an International Dark Sky Community, preserving its stunning night skies and enhancing its rich cultural and ecological foundations.

Photo credit: Micky Pap Scapes

Carrickalinga, one of the most popular coastal towns on South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula, has been honoured with certification as an International Dark Sky Community by DarkSky International. It’s Australia’s town to receive the certification. It’s come about thanks to Carrickalinga’s residents’ dedication to preserving and celebrating their naturally dark night skies.

The township, home to over 400 permanent residents, swells significantly in population during holiday seasons due to its stunning natural attractions, not least of which is the night sky. Its geographical position, distanced from the major city lights of Adelaide by a range of hills, along with sparse streetlights, has always favoured starry nights, making it a perfect candidate for such recognition.

Carrickalinga’s geographical characteristics feature an alluvial coastal strip, noted for its white sandy dunes, clear water and abundant marine life, which includes the Leafy Seadragon, South Australia’s marine emblem. This region also serves as a habitat for diverse wildlife, from birds and lizards to dolphins, which also enhances its ecological importance.

The regional history is enriched by millennia of First Nations stewardship, notably by the Kaurna, Ramindjeri, Peramangk, and Ngarrindjeri peoples. Their connections and traditions contribute deeply to the cultural landscape, including linked cosmologies and astronomy.

Since 2021, the Carrickalinga community, led by local advocates like Sharolyn Anderson, initiated efforts to attain this dark sky status. This has included a range of activities: initiating a sky quality metering program; running information stalls at field days and markets; making presentations to community groups and local government meetings; preparing flyers and a video recording; coordinating a Star Party to engage and inspire the wider community; and working with the District Council of Yankalilla to conduct an official community consultation program. The community has also worked with Council to prepare an appropriate Lighting Policy (ordinance) as well as a public lighting design with Greenhill Engineering compliant both with Australian Standards and DarkSky requirements. 

Sharolyn Anderson underlined the profound environmental implications of this certification, noting, “Designation of Carrickalinga as a Dark Sky Community and the preservation of its pristine night sky will remind residents and visitors alike of our place in the vast universe and foster a deeper connection to nature.” She also made note of the benefits to wildlife conservation and ecosystem preservation.

Three key contributors to the certification for Carrickalinga have been Sharolyn Anderson, Dr Sheryn Pitman and Professor Chris Daniels.

Long-time Carrickalinga local, environmental scientist and educator, Dr. Sheryn Pitman shared, “In a world of diminishing dark and starry skies, we are thrilled to have achieved this certification for a place we hold close to our hearts.” Her personal connection to Carrickalinga’s skies spans over five decades, giving her a profound appreciation of the night sky’s role in perspective and conservation. She was the first to identify Carrickalinga as a potential ‘dark sky Place’.

Dedicated environmental advocate Professor Chris Daniels described the achievement as momentous, providing a positive model for community engagement with natural conservation. “As a zoologist and environmentalist focusing on people’s connection with nature, my usual day involves dealing with the seemingly never-ending backward steps our communities take in connecting with our natural world,” says Chris. “However, this is an incredibly positive step forward. The community of Carrickalinga is the first in Australia to recognise our very real need to see and enjoy the starry sky at night, and the importance of the night sky for the health and wellbeing of our nocturnal animals. Carrickalinga chose to make a difference by embracing the dark sky ambition and over the last three years the town community committed itself to delivering a night full of stars. Today this dream is a reality. Carrickalinga will now serve as a model for others to follow.”

Amber Harrison, International Dark Sky Places Program Manager also commented, stating, “Through lighting retrofit and outreach actions initiated as part of the certification process, community residents and visitors can learn about best practices for outdoor lighting at night.” These projects not only demonstrate effective lighting but serve as local inspiration for sustainable practices.

The Carrickalinga community, steered by the Carrickalinga Ratepayers Association, envisions leveraging this certification to further educate on light pollution and propel dark-sky friendly lighting initiatives. With great prospects for astro-tourism and educational opportunities on indigenous astronomical knowledge, Carrickalinga is set to enhance both community and visitor experiences under its starlit nights.

Founded in 2001, the International Dark Sky Places Program, under DarkSky International, champions the protection of night environments and promotes community-based conservation. Carrickalinga proudly joins over 210 Dark Sky Places globally, advocating for reduced light pollution and preservation of our connection to the visible cosmos.

More information about the program and initiatives can be accessed via their website www.darksky.org/conservation/idsp.

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