I’m a Yorta Yorta, Dja Dja Wurrung, Bunnerong, Taungurong woman. My people are the Harrisons, Charles, Hamiltons and Briggs. These names connect me with the many lands that my people have nurtured and walked upon for generations.
The NAIDOC 2021 theme – Heal Country! – calls for all of us to continue to seek greater protections for our lands, our waters, our sacred sites and our cultural heritage from exploitation, desecration, and destruction. For millenia our people have cared for, managed, used and protected our lands.
Country is important to me. I have so many happy memories of my connection and relationship with the land. Growing up the land was a mystery to be discovered, it was our food source of catching eels, rabbits, going mushrooming, of yabbying, and of worms on strings attached to twigs to catch freshwater crays.
Land was also our Elders tool for keeping us in line. My grandmother would often use the threat of the Dooligahs to make us behave saying the Dooligahs would come up after the shadows of the trees disappeared to make sure we were home before dark.
To me country has so many healing properties, it relates stories of our many peoples; of our lands; of our resilience and survival; it links us with healing ceremonies of smoking; with the animals of the land as our totems and moieties that we use in healing, of Bunjil and the possum skin cloak. Land links us with spirituality – through our stories of the dreaming.
I think that non-Aboriginal people are now more than ever embracing Aboriginal cultural knowledge and understanding of country. With the bushfires we have seen greater interest in understanding traditional cultural burning approaches. We now see greater understanding of the medicinal healing properties of our native plants. We now have international chefs using our plants and spices in restaurants all over Australia.
We see our Aboriginal people educating non-Aboriginal people to protect country through land management activities, promoting revegetation, producing food and game, in conserving our ecosystems.
Today we are talking about Treaty and self-determination. Self-determination applies to the land. It’s about us having a say on our land and on matters to keep our country healthy. Where we create a platform for negotiating natural, cultural and local management priorities. Where our landscapes, plants and animals are protected for future generations.
Our land is important to our survival. I hope you all have a great NAIDOC and urge you to take the time to connect back to country.
- Muriel Bamblett, VACCA CEO