Heal Country!

05 Jul 2021 Adam Gowen, Wiradjuri, connections to Yuin Country, Culture, and People.

NAIDOC is a great opportunity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture to be celebrated.

I have fond memories of NAIDOC weeks in the past of getting together with mob from all over and watching dances, tasting delicious food, laughing at funny stories, and marvelling at the wisdom and compassion shared by Elders. As you read this short blog, my hope is that you experience some of the joy and beauty of Aboriginal culture. This is an invitation – celebrate our cultures with us.

This year’s theme for NAIDOC is ‘Heal Country!’. So, what is Country? To me this isn’t just about the land, although that’s an important component. Country to me includes the land (sand, rocks, soil, and clay), the waters (rivers, lakes, seas, creeks, puddles), the vegetation (trees, the bushes, the vines, and grasses), all animals (the insects, the fish, mammals, reptiles, and the birds). It involves the weather (winds, and rains, the dry, and damp), the seasons (many more than 4!), and the geographical features (rocks, the mountains, plains, gullies, beaches), and the sky (clouds, and clear, stars, and all things astronomical). People too, are part of Country. More than anyone individual component Country is about RELATIONSHIP and STORY. All the elements of Country relate to and with each other element. What happens to one element affects all the others. This way of understanding Country also shows us that all the events that have happened in a location in the past, remain in that place in the present. Additionally, what we do in the spaces we occupy in the present influences the story of that place into the future.

What we do to care for Country can result in health being restored to Country, or not. At some level, this is about being environmentally conscious, but it’s also about the why – Understanding that we as people have a responsibility to all the other elements of Country should be what inspires our action.

Country has provided for us. It gives us food to eat, shelter from the harsher elements, tools to help us achieve our aspirations, clothes and accessories so that we can express ourselves. Every physical thing comes from Country (and many non-physical things too). I believe that we need to recognise what we have been given and engage in a relationship with Country that expresses our gratitude. In this way, we can be conscientious in how we consume, and we can begin healing relationships that have been neglected and degraded over time. Our gratitude and principled approach to how we engage with Country might be the beginning not only of healing Country, but of healing ourselves.

Take a moment this week to reflect about the space you inhabit. Do you know the name of the nation who have cared for that place for thousands of generations before you arrived? What stories do you know about that place? Importantly, what stories are you telling (in both your words and actions) that will reverberate in that place into the future? By giving care and respect, you can play a part, along with all the other elements, and together we can ‘Heal Country!’

Adam Gowen, Wiradjuri, connections to Yuin Country, Culture, and People.

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