What Heal Country means to me - Kevin Russell

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Below is a transcript of this video.

My name is Kevin Russell, I’m a proud Yorta Yorta man. My Yorta Yorta connection goes back to my grandmother, Sally Cooper. She's the daughter of William Cooper. A good question - where I get the name Russell, other mob name Russell, but it's actually for the Cooper family that I go back. A proud Yorta Yorta man and I go home as often as I can.

Being able to be on Country is everything to me, it's so important to me and I go home as often as I can.

And when I say home, I go back to Barmah. I go back to the forest - the Barmah forest, the Moira forest. I go to Cummera, I go to the cemetery. I go to sacred sites. I go and sit under a tree. I camp there, I sleep there, I eat there, I fish there. I find peace when I go home, when I go back there there's a peacefulness about me that I don't get in this concrete jungle anymore.

It reminds me of when I was a kid, when I was up there, too. As a young fella running around up there on the mission with uncle Col, dad, or cousins. To be able to go back home now with my own boys to show them where I used to run around Country, but now with a different understanding of Country - I didn't really appreciate it when I was younger.

Going home to Country is very special to me. Being able to sit with Elders and hear their stories. When you think you've heard everything, they've always got something to tell ya. It's something.

It's about connection which is healing and we can get lost in today's world. When you get lost and get caught up in all the things, you become disconnected. That's why I say when I go back, it's about reconnecting. It gives you a sense of belonging and tranquillity. There's a tranquilness about being on Country that's healing in itself, because you're actually slowing yourself down. 

I believe the whole healing of Country, healing of community, healing of individuals, it's interwoven.

It's that very holistic understanding of connection - one thing can't be out of whack, otherwise it will affect everything else. The rivers Country is sick because there's no water coming, the Country's sick then people are sick. If our Country is vibrant and healthy and we're looking after it, our people are healthy and happy. In many ways, in a spiritual way, an emotional way, in a cultural way, there's definitely healing from being on Country. [To interviewer] I know you've done some work with Link-Up, being able to take someone to their Country for the first time - to witness how much healing can take place from just being on Country.

As we heal, Country heals. We heal as a people and as a community, I think we all benefit from that. That's what I think - the thing about healing Country this year for NAIDOC, when we think about those things.

A question we've been asking for two hundred and fifty years - to walk with us, not in front of us, not behind us. In reconciliation and understanding, truth telling, treaties, being in a place where we can be seen as equal. What does that require to happen? It's continually educating. Educating your neighbour, telling stories to kids.

It's funny how even with my own kids, as they become stronger in who they were and who they are, how they love hanging out with their non-Aboriginal mates and telling them stories. Then they go home and talk to their families at dinnertime, all the things that maybe Michael may have shared, so that's spreading the word of the gospel, you know, telling their stories and being proud and educating others. I think I try to do that wherever I can, rather than drumming things in to trying a real radical approach which doesn't fit for me. I like to have storytelling yarns sitting with non-Aboriginal people, or if you've got the opportunity, you're in the right forum to be proud to tell your story.

Storytelling is very powerful - even one person's story, we're all so different. By sharing your own story or part of your story it's educating somebody, whoever you're with, whether that be the neighbours or your workmates or on the footy field. I think it's about giving of yourself because for a lot of people, I reckon, it's lot to do with denial and fear. People are scared, sometimes too scared to ask questions. And there's no such thing as a silly question, because how do you know what you don't know?

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