48% of the Australian continent has been razed for mining and agriculture. The key to its restoration lies in 65,000 years of Aboriginal knowledge.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have had a deep connection with the land, or “boodja” as it’s known in the Nyungar language, for more than 60,000 years.
This episode brings together Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal perspectives on how ancient Aboriginal knowledge of the environment, together with world-leading science, can be used to restore and conserve our land for future generations.
Hosted at the stunning Western Australian Musem Boola Bardip, the talk was part of Curtin University’s annual Research Rumble event – a week-long series of talks that showcase the future-focused research coming out of the university.
Renowned botanist Professor Kingsley Dixon, Director of the Australian Research Centre for Mine Site Restoration, is your MC.
Curtin University supports academic freedom of speech. The views expressed in The Future Of podcast may not reflect those of Curtin University.
Music: OKAY by 13ounce Creative Commons — Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported — CC BY-SA 3.0 Music promoted by Audio Library.
Read the full transcript for the episode.
This is The Future Of, where experts share their vision of the future and how their work is helping shape it for the better.
Kaya, I’m Jessica Morrison.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have had a deep connection with the land, or “Boodja” as it’s known in the Nyungar language, for more than 60,000 years.
What you’re about to hear is a panel discussion bringing together Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal perspectives, on how ancient Aboriginal knowledge of the environment can be used to restore and conserve our land for future generations.
Hosted at the stunning Western Australian Musem Boola Bardip, the talk was part of Curtin University’s annual Research Rumble event – a week-long series of talks that showcase the future-focused research coming out of the university.
Renowned botanist Professor Kingsley Dixon, Director of the Australian Research Centre for Mine Site Restoration, is your MC.
Kingsley Dixon (00:57):
Tonight, there're two parts. The first part is about hearing country, the second part is about healing country. And in hearing country, is about what we can learn when we listen to the Indigenous voices. So we have a panel of distinguished people to come forward.
I'd like to invite Stephen van Leeuwen, already introduced him as a remarkable professor. The remarkable Vivienne Hansen, who's the owner-operator of Binyaarns Bush Medicine. I use her products. It's fabulous. Get one of her orders over there. Wonderful lady.
Oral McGuire, our best looking Nyungar on the planet. A director of the Noongar Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Heidi Mippy, the delightful and elegant Heidi Mippy. Southwest Aboriginal Land and Sea Council managing director 4X4 Dreaming, and director of the Wirridjuri Aboriginal Women's Corporation.
So, we've got a very short period of time to encapsulate 60,000 years of knowledge and experience. So it's really, really unfair, but I think this group are really up to it. The way we'd like to approach it is, to ask Stephen to pose the question, as we go forward in restoring the 48% of this continent that we have degraded almost irrevocably in 200 years. The Indigenous solutions are paramount to that. What are those Indigenous solutions going to look like? So, a few words from you?
Stephen van Leeuwen (02:54):
So I'll start by saying, always was, always will be. I've got three phrases that I keep referring back to, and that is one of them. The longer my career goes on, the more adamant I get about putting that message out there. Not only to my research colleagues, but to my family and friends, and to the numerous boards and committees I sit on, particularly in Canberra. Reinforcing the fact that, this is always playing in our country and it always will be.
From that perspective, we want to continue the stewardship of country that we've been doing for 65,000 years plus. And we want to take control of that self-determination, and we want to lead that, and it be Indigenous led, rather than the participants on a journey that is being led by someone else. To me, getting country back into good condition and the opportunities that presents to our mob, whether it be Nyungar, Yamaji, people in the Kimberley, [inaudible 00:03:18], people at Kiwirrkura, whatever. It's about getting back onto our country and being our to manage, and look after our country, the way we want to.
And in so doing, there are lots of opportunities for business development, but also for improving the wellbeing of ourselves and our communities, and the wellbeing of the general community and helping address the challenges of climate change. Of fragmentation, of threatened species and ecological communities. Aboriginal Australians, Torres Strait Islanders, have a lot to offer in that space. And at the moment we are looking in, we're getting better at being engaged in it, but we want to lead it. We want it to be Indigenous led.
The Healing Country proposal at Curtin, and other programs at Curtin, are very much pushing that. And other programs that Curtin are affiliated with, are very much in that space.
Heidi, you thought you'd get away with it. A one minute perspective on Stephen's comment and your sense of country and ... Or two minutes. Five minutes.
How's this? Microphone on.
Yes, talk nice and loud.
Heidi Mippy (05:30):
Now I've got to pretend I was listening to Stephen. No, I was. Two minute perspective, I guess the biggest takeaway for me from that and what resonates the most, is the spiritual connection to country that is most often underrated and overlooked by other research or scientific knowledge. And certainly what drives me is our spiritual connection to country, and country's connection to us.
Oral McGuire (06:20):
[inaudible 00:05:19] [crosstalk 00:05:24]. Hi, [Nyungar language 00:05:28] I think the thing for me, continuing on from what Heidi's been saying is, our spirituality is so deep and this wonderful exhibition here, uses technology, and words, and the graphics, and the stories, to capture it.
But you've got to understand the depth of that. Every time I speak, I now start to remind people, don't just talk about 65,000 and not fully understand how big that number is. So for me, biodiversity is the manifestation of our spirit. So if we're going to heal country, then the healing of country really needs to be led as Stephen said, by Nyungar and Aboriginal people as the custodians.
Because the custodians and the power of the land, including this land that we sit on right here, is held in the knowledge that Aboriginal people have and have always had. And we've still got it. Nyungar people don't own 98% of our lands, but we know, and everybody knows, and the government have recognised through the Recognition Act, that this is Nyungar Boodja and we are the custodian.
The leading of it is absolutely not about the economics, it's not about the science, it's about the spirit. And it's spirit that differentiates our world, and our connection, and our understanding, of what this project is premised on, that makes it more critical for the science world, and the commercial, and corporate, and political, and legal worlds, to understand. That if we're going to have a chance at saving Boodja, then on this land here, the Nyungar people must lead.
Great. Thank you very much. Very wise words. Viv Hansen, your words.
Vivienne Hansen (08:50):
Yes. Hi, [Nyungar language 00:07:45] Good evening everyone [inaudible 00:08:00] I'm proud and happy to be here on Whadjuk country. Our heart, our spirit, our blood, is embedded deep in this land. We have been a part of it since the beginning of time. Scientists say 65,000 years, I think we've been here since the world was created. And our people managed to look after the land.
We had scientists, we had astronomers, but they had different names. And they knew what time to move, what time to harvest, what time to go fishing or whatever. It was all just passed down. And I always say that, our people then didn't have these buildings called universities or whatever, we must have been the smartest people in the world, because they didn't need a book to learn.
You had to "ni" - you had listen - to the kaartdijin - the knowledge - that was being passed down to you, otherwise you'd lose it. My husband and I, we go tree planting every year with a group called Activate the Wheatbelt. And by planting like 20, 30,000 trees over a weekend. And I said, to Mort, "Why have we got to go?" And he said, "Because we helped clear the land." I said well, our people had no choice, they had to clear the land to make a living.
And when you go back to country ... I grew up in Brookton and I walked the bush with my old aunties, and cousins, my grandmother, before she passed on. So, we knew what foods to look for at certain times of the year, we knew when the rains were coming, we could tell by the science. So there's so much knowledge that has been lost, but the four of us sitting here and a lot of the elderly Nyungar people, they still have that.
And I think it's long overdue that we start to engage with each other, so that we can start caring for the land. There's nothing more exhilarating than getting up when it's raining, and you're out in the bush. And you can actually smell the bush; you can smell the eucalyptus, you can smell the earth, and you can hear the birds sing.
What's more beautiful than our country when the wildflowers are blooming? Doesn't that colour just brighten you up? And all the different shapes of those bushes, doesn't it lift your spirits? We live in a wonderful country, we have to take care of it. And with science and Nyungar kaartdijin, I think we'll get there.
Thank you very much, Vivienne. Now I'd like to ask the audience. We've got a roving mic, you've heard some commentary. You've heard where we wish to go. Are there questions and comments to the distinguished panel?
I have one, I think the challenge as a kid growing up in the bush was that, I knew that the local Aboriginal people, but we divorced the Western and Indigenous science, one from another. During my PhD, I actually worked with Indigenous people up near a place called Canna up the north, some really interesting sites up there. And then I started to realise that there was in fact, this entire library of information that we didn't know about. I guess the challenge is getting that information before it's lost.
And what are the best methods for us to have this joint new journey going forward, under the leadership of you guys? So Oral, you're already operating businesses in that space, so you can see those joining of knowledge.
Oral McGuire (13:00):
Yeah we've got a mantra with the Nyungar Land Enterprise Group, and we've developed all of our models for our governance, as well as our enterprise and business development around two key aspects.
One is that we do things that are culturally appropriate, and the other part is commercially focused. And I think sometimes they are two of the most difficult areas to hold and to uphold, if you're thinking about the integrity of both. So operating around good governance and the way we make decisions corporately, but our product developments, our knowledge and how we utilise that sacred knowledge that we do still hold and still do have access to, are critical parts of the integrity.
That we as contemporary Nyungar, and Aboriginal people, and leaders, want to build in terms of the models and the structures. We know that our old fellas knew so much, and everything they need to know, they knew. And as Viv said, it was held in the songs, it was held in the language. Our language holds codes that only the speakers of that language fully can understand.
The wisdom and the sacredness of that knowledge, are held in language. I want to thank my granddaughter for the beautiful welcome, and I think in those songs, in those words, and those phrases that we used, we capture, and we hold a spirit. We say in our family that, when we speak language, we sing to country and country vibrates. Now, no one else can do that.
So, that vibration is a metaphysical thing, but that's the power of it. And so understanding that, that's what we as Nyungar people and knowledge holders of a sacred, of the First World. We are First World cultures. All Indigenous groups around the world, speak of themselves as First Nations.
And they refer to us as First World nations and cultures. So we were doing things as Viv said, long before the Greeks, and the Romans, and the Egyptians, and so on. And yet we struggle in this country. On this land here, the Nyungar people are the most impoverished still. So the things that we want to build ... I'm getting more dogged and I am actually getting angry.
Because I get sick of seeing mantra statements or motherhood statements, of Aboriginal engagement. I heard it today again from a senior minister, and I get sick of that. So for me, my part, I will be making you accountable, and Curtin University to the wisdom, and the strength, and the power of the knowledge that we bring. We bring a knowledge that connects us right back to the first, but we also need help. We need help to heal, country needs healing, and country needs us to be strong.
Because if our people are "winyarn", "minditj" and unwell, as we are, because we still die young, the knowledge that is held - and we have lost so many people in the settlement time - the 20 years that we've been waiting patiently for our Nyungar settlement, we have lost thousands of knowledge holders.
So we don't have time. The environment and the climate change is impacting on us in ways, where we are running out of time. So the trajectory for that emergency is sitting there, and we need Curtin University, we need powerful guys like you Kingsley, to act.
Fabulous. Heidi, Western science and Western philosophy, has suddenly discovered this thing called, and we'll hear a bit about it - "eco health", the value of nature. Heidi, you have spoken as Vivienne's spoken about the spirit of the land. Bringing that into the space of restoring and creating the Boodja again - your feelings as one of the youngest people on the panel; the youngest person on the panel?
I was listening to Oral speak then, and now with your question, and it takes me back to the younger generation, our kids. I've got a year 12 daughter, who's 16. I can't help, but have an aching heart for the loss of spirit among our younger generation. But what I know, and I know through my own experience as a young 41 year old, and through my daughters, is the minute that we're out on country and on healthy country of which we belong to, no matter what trauma we have been through, or experience we've had, everyone's heart sinks. They connect to their old people, and I connect to my old people and our old people. I have a lifetime of community development experience, but what I see on country, particularly when young people also can engage in working on country, is amazing wellbeing and mental health solutions.
I think our mental health programs are heavily funded, but we kind of need to shift a little bit and now start thinking about Boodja, and mental health and wellbeing, and recognize the impacts that, that does have for all of us. And like Oral said, for me, if I'm not strong, I can't be strong for my kids. So I have to get out of bush all the time, because I have teenagers. And then I need to get them out there. So opportunities to do that is limited. And when you go to a country that is sick, and if you've been out to Oral's farm, and you see the difference that they've made there, country and spirit starts to talk to you a lot louder, doesn't it? Then you see more, and you feel more, and you just don't want to leave and you just camp and squat out on the farm, and not come back to the city.
Fantastic. We've got just five minutes. So if you've got any burning questions, Gita Sonnenberg, please in the front.
This is being podcast, so we need the microphone. I think it's on.
Is it working? Can you hear me?
Yeah, speak up.
I have a question for you Heidi, because it's sometimes hard for me to really get the idea of spirits and of healthy country or ill country. So what is the difference? Can you describe? Pretend I'm a toddler, or maybe not a toddler, but someone who really doesn't know, what does healthy country look like or feel like?
And I'll also asked Viv to chime in after you as well. No, no, Heidi first. Thank you.
I want to say that healthy country gives off a greater vibration and it speaks louder. And when it does that, even wadjelas are forced to feel and listen, right? So people who may be going, sitting in Kings Park, have a connection that they feel, and we feel things also in different ways.
But I'm going to just confuse everything and say that country that isn't healthy, also speaks and sings us there, and demands that we take action to heal it, it's spirit and our spirit. So I've probably confused everyone with that answer, but I hope that helps us ... probably not toddler level.
Thank you. Viv.
Vivienne Hansen (21:25):
Like most of us Nyungar fellas, we all like to go out bush, those of us who live in the city. And going out bush, where there is bush, where there's green trees, and you see the kangaroos hopping, you see the animals hopping around. There's a lot of places where you go to, you don't see the animals, because the bush is not healthy.
I did six months seed collecting up at Canna a few years ago. And the only thing that saddened me, was collecting Indian sandalwood nuts in Australia. Though there was Australian sandalwood growing there and all the different types of acacia and salt bush, and the farms, they're really ... how can I put it? They'd just been cleared so badly. There's a lot of soil erosion, et cetera. So there's nothing growing on there.
There's no bird life, there's no animal life. And so you feel that, with our connection to the land, we feel that. And when we go out bush, we make the kids to take their shoes off. We take our shoes off, so they're embedding their feet, their mark, in our mother, we call Earth our mother, and the Sun is their mother. And the Moon is the Sun's sister, they take care of us. And the sea, we call that Maaman - he's father. And when he comes in, his waves they come in like the beat of your heart. You stand on the ocean sand and you put your hand on your heart, and you count the waves coming in, and it will be in tune to your heart. That's how you get connected spiritually. You go and stand along the river and you look in that river, and you look around, you close your eyes and you hear the wind whistling through the breeze, through those trees.
There are certain trees that we sit under, when our spirit is down. We have to sit under that tree. We don't cut that tree down, we don't even take a branch off it. We just sit under that. And they say, "When the needles fall on us from this tree, because it's a sheoak tree - we call it the quell tree - when those needles fall on us, we're told, that's the tears of our old people healing us. And when you hear the breeze whisper through that, that's the old people singing to us to heal us.
So, country is really important, I'll take my grannies out. I do bush medicine, and I grew up learning about the bush, and then I forgot all about it. Took my kids to the doctor like everybody else did. And then I came to start the care for my mother-in-law, went and did a course called bush and Western herbal medicine.
And it was like, when those slot machines go off at the casino, when you win a lot of money - that was happening in my brain, it was like, "Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding." And my mum was still living, my mother-in-law, a lot of my older cousins. And I said, "I think I might like to write a book about Nyungar bush medicine." And the response I got from my female relatives was, "Well ya better get onto it soon little girly."
Took me about four years. And then a guy came and gave me a hand, he's the co author. And it was amazing. All the memories that came back, all the smells about this flower, that flower, what we used it for. And it also reconnected me with mother Earth, because when you're living in the city, you're all caught up with this and that, and you're out there protesting.
I'm just trying to get your feet on the ground, make a living, et cetera. But also when we go out bush, it's really difficult. Because, as Oral said earlier, we don't own the land anymore. But we've always been told that the land owns us. We belong to the land. And it's very hard to take our kids out and show them, because there's very little virgin bush left.
Even through the state forest, at the moment we've got fires burning. I call them the legal arsonists with their burning, because what they don't realise is, where they're burning every year, year in, year out, they're making plants extinct. You've got cockatoos that are coming into the city, because there's no seeds left on the trees. They're just black trunks up in the air. Wildflower season, there's no wildflowers because they've burnt them continuously, that even the seeds are unable to stay in the ground to be regenerated. So, I think we've got a lot of, a lot of work to do and I've really enjoyed being here and sharing my thoughts with everyone. Let's take it further, and I think I'm running out of time.
Well said. And Stephen, the last word, the value of biodiversity in the restoration agenda, because there're many people around the world, there's reforestation, tree planting programs, but it's more than that. It's the richness within, because that's what we're hearing about.
Stephen van Leeuwen (26:40):
The richness within. And yeah, some of that is really hard to quantify because it's about people's values. But in Australia, 57% of the land mass has now is been determined as part of the Indigenousness estate and that's only going to grow as more determinations are made and Indigenous land use agreements are settled. In Western Australia at least, over 50% - it's 57% - of the protected area of the state, is Indigenous owned and Indigenous protected areas. So we're hitting above - as a ethnic group, minority perhaps - we're doing better than the state in conserving our state's flora and fauna.
Although it's not recognised by the state, because it's just treated as unallocated land. Unless they want to make the Commonwealth and international targets. And then in that land, there's threatened species that we are spending a lot of money on, trying to protect and prevent from going extinct. And then on that land or adjacent to it, there's significant opportunities to return that country to a better state than it currently is.
Those opportunities present themselves in honey sandalwood and bioceuticals, pharmaceuticals, chanel and boronia essence, things like that. And they're all great opportunities that are out there, that our mob and also our neighbours on the other side of the fence, can take advantage of, if we look after country better and turn the trajectory around.
Thank you very much, Stephen. Great summary words. We're running out of time for our distinguished panel. Sorry, there's a very quick question.
Hello. My name is Dani, and I'd like to acknowledge my family up there as well. What you're saying, very much resonates in what I am practising at the moment. I'm currently working in mental health as a psychiatry registrar, to become a consultant soon. But very much, I think there's such a lack of acknowledgement how healing the land is, not only with our Nyungar people, but also with non-Indigenous as well.
I often will tell my patients, as exactly what Nan, Vivienne, you mentioned, with going out into the land, taking your socks off, going into and feeling it. And it's that actual connectedness, instead of being disconnected, you are actually at that point in time, present. Because I think at this point in time, our society is very much detached. But I think our land is very much healing for our spirit and also in turn we're healing country. So I think it's phenomenal.
That was beautifully said. Can you all join me in thanking this wonderful panel, and we will have some questions right at the end? Thank you very much. While they're getting down, of course, we're discovering the value of bush. The very expensive new kids walkway from the children's hospital across to Kings Park doesn't go to a lawn, doesn't go to a fancy pond, it actually goes into the bushland. So, I think we're starting to discover that that's an important part of healing.
Now, the next component is what we're calling the healing country. And we're going to have a research perspective from four of our research and thinking leaders, that fit into the restoration. And of course the challenge is, how we get this thinking to integrate with the Indigenous knowledge? And that's what we're now working on very progressively.
I'd like to invite to the podium, Adam Cross, he's a research fellow in the school of molecular and life sciences. And also, is a director of the International EcoHealth Network. So we have someone about the value of nature for human health. Renee Young, director of restoration at the WA Biodiversity Science Institute, and also at Curtin University. And Dr Simone Pedrini, who's an ARC Center for Mine Site Restoration research fellow, and he works in the magical world of improving seed performance.
So I'm going to ask each of them ... I think that's it for me. So I'm going to sit down at this point, to give their brief overview of their role as a scientist and how that might connect in to what we've now heard from our distinguished Nyungar group. Thank you.
Adam Cross (31:50):
Hi, it's an amazingly humbling experience to be sitting here in front of, not only such a distinguished audience, but an audience that represents more knowledge over a longer period, than I can possibly fathom. I've had the privilege of being able to work up in the Kimberley, over the last 10 or so years as a botanist, as a plant nerd. I can only begin to understand this concept of a landscape singing, but being able to walk around in the Kimberley; in the wilderness alone, and just hearing as has been said, the bird life, the animal life, hearing the wind whistling through the trees.
I would go so far as to say that I can imagine the history that has been a part of that land, and that land being a part of that history over an immense time period. Bringing that into the work that we do at Curtin, in the sense of conservation, restoration, ecology, I think is going to become increasingly fundamental.
As Kingsley's mentioned, I am lucky enough to be the science director for the International Group EcoHealth Network. And that's all about this concept of eco health and eco cultural restoration. Considering people as part of nature depended upon nature, requiring of nature, and not only for livelihoods, health, wellbeing, but also just intrinsically for having a good life.
I think that what's really critical in this is that, yes, this is a relatively new field of science, and it's a field for which Curtin and others in this healing country bid are hopefully going to be pioneering in the Western science space. But it's not a new concept. This is a concept which people here in Western Australia and all around the world, have known about for a very, very long time.
And so we're essentially reinventing the wheel, re-understanding, or trying to develop a better understanding of, how we can actually return to that lifestyle, return to understanding the key value and importance of nature and the world around us, in our health and wellbeing in our economic and health status.
So, I think that healing country, there are many, many projects around the world that are Indigenous led. I think healing country is going to represent one of the foremost and one of the most important, and one of the largest Indigenous led projects in that space. And I think that 10 years time, five years time, it's going to be a really exciting place to be for us.
Renee Young. Thank you.
Renee Young (34:40):
Thank you, Kingsley. I'd just like to reiterate what Adams said at the start, is a real privilege to be here representing Curtin today, and to be having this conversation with this distinguished group. We do feel very honored to to be participating in and being able to share our views. I guess my background in conservation and restoration started many years ago, even before I fully appreciated it. I grew up on a farm down south, even in those years that I was living down there, I was there and I was able to witness the land changing.
Even though I'm not Indigenous, that still really affected me. And I think that those changes that I observed when I was down there, it really drove me into the career that I'm in now, where it's, "Let's figure out how we can restore the land. Let's figure out how we can do it in a culturally appropriate manner, and maintain the opportunities for Indigenous communities that they really need." Because like Oral acknowledged, our Indigenous communities they're some of the most impoverished people in Western Australia. So I think this proposal through healing country, is a real opportunity for us to try to turn that around and work together to be able to find the solutions that might change.
Thank you very much. An important part of going forward, is some of the heavy duty science that we need. And although we don't have time tonight to go through some of all of those ones that Curtin, and other research institutions, and NGOs are doing, we thought we would give you a snapshot of one package of technology that we're really leading in. And so I'll ask Simone Pedrini to share a little bit of information about something that you all have in your pack. It's a funny little envelope, clear with two little packets of seed, and he's about to talk about those.
They have not received the bag yet, so they'll be ...
You will receive a packet. You will.
Simone Pedrini (37:30)
So I guess what Kingsley was straight to talk about is, this idea of native seeds and how important native seeds are to perform the restoration on the country. And as it was said before, we the Europeans, in two hundred years, managed to create a level of land destructions and disturbance that has been unprecedented in this country. And if you will think of the scale a day, how vast this area to be restored. And you start thinking about the amount of seeds that is needed to try to bring back even just a part of this ecosystem. You will realise we're falling way behind. There's a problem. There's simply not enough seeds to do it. Not enough diversity, not enough quantity and not enough quality. There's lots of issues throughout the supply chain.
One of these is that, we rely entirely on collection of seeds from natural populations. We've got people going into bush collecting seeds, but they're just not enough seeds in the bush to do so. And we've got a major issue that, we cannot do restoration with that little seed. And we may also damage the population while we're collecting the seed. So our way out of this, is probably start to set up seed farming. Start getting native seeds, and produce them in a sustainable way, so we can get much more seeds, much more cheaper and have better quality.
So we can start delivering at this scale over the landscape. Another aspect of it is that, we need to look into every step of the supply chain and start to look, how we can improve every step. We've got seed storage that needs to be improved. Cleaning those seeds, breaking the dormancy because some of the seeds is very hard to germinate. But the real breakthrough probably is going to happen, as Kingsley said, from seed technologies.
When I have a seed, you think of diversity of flora, you've got in WA. And you think of all the different size, and shape, and complexity of native seeds. That is a real challenge to overcome when you're trying to seed hundreds of thousands of hectares. With this technology of seed coating, we're going to give a preview of what you'll find in your package.
There's two seeds, this is kangaroo paw, natural seed, and the one that we've pelleted. With this technology, we can take all the seeds with different shapes and sizes, and make them uniform of a single kind. So they can be delivered with agricultural equipment like a conola seeder and we can do it in huge scale as we do in canola seeding right now.
And this is just one aspect of it. We can put extra things in this pellet. We can put beneficial microbes, that can return soil health and plant health to the country. So this is just an example of the research we're currently doing. But the idea of healing country and this technology that we're now developing, is that we want to co-develop this technology with the Indigenous enterprise, like the one of Oral, and try to bring these into a commercial reality, and the real opportunity to give the Indigenous community a key role in the restoration of economy, if not THE key role in the restoration economy.
Thank you very much. Yes. Very well said. Renee, a question to you. Living on country, seeing the changes on country, your parents may have cleared the land. Do you get a chance to speak to them, as your elders, about the next journey? And what's their perception of that, and do they see the science and the Indigenous involvement as part of that?
Renee Young (41:05):
Very good question, Kingsley. I do speak to my mum and dad about the history of our farm. It wasn't them that cleared the land, but it was my dad's grandfather who did, along with the other colonisers of the area. Through the current farming practices that they undertake, they know what's happening on the land. That property's his entire life, and he's now 70. So he's seen the changes.
I think what we are seeing is that, farmers are very open to ... they're scientists as well. They learn year after year, how to improve their practice. And if something's not working on the land, and they're not getting that productivity, or they're seeing increased salinity around the creek lines or in low lying areas, they care for the land too.
They want to find the solutions to solve those problems and manage the land in a sustainable way. And I think that we've seen a real shift in the culture; in the agricultural industry, and how to manage your land. And maybe that's where I got some of my science passion, is that I've seen my dad go to these farming forums and workshops that they have, where they're showing them new technologies, open days, bringing it back to the farm, testing, refining it for our few hectares, and moving to resolve some of these issues. So it is really inspiring to see positive change happening as well.
Thank you. Adam, from a global perspective, what you've heard from our Nyungar panel about their spiritual connection to land, it's extraordinarily powerful. You rarely hear that, the only other group I hear it from are First Nation North Americans, exactly the same discussion.
As the International Science Director, the way in which the restoration economy needs to build in the ecological health aspects and the spiritual aspects, for not only the colonisers, but also the Indigenous people. What have you learned as the roving director?
Adam Cross (44:00):
I certainly can't speak on behalf of any of those groups, but honestly, it's a message that is repeated time and time again. Oppression and colonisation, removal from country, exclusion from country, whether it's here in Australia, whether it's in South America, North America, it's a consistent situation that has occurred, unfortunately, over the last thousand, to 2,000, to more years.
Increasingly, there's a real strong, passionate desire, that has to change. And it's being driven by those Indigenous groups. They are taking control of the land that is theirs, rightfully becoming the managers and the custodians of that land. Again, as we're seeing, finally here in Western Australia, and really no longer being forced to be led or pulled along in a non meaningful way in some of these activities.
Genuinely leading, and guiding, and being the leaders in all things, restoration, whether that's in seeds and seed collection, whether that's in planning, whether that's in buying white fellow businesses and managing them in ways that are beneficial to Indigenous communities. I have the great privilege to work for the Marimanindji peoples up in the Northeast, Kimberly, with Gelganyem Limited. And really it's this concept of, what can we do that will re-engage our peoples with our country, with our land, that is going to benefit us in the longterm and deliver us legacies, so that the kids today will have a better future than their parents and grandparents have had.
Are there any questions from the floor for our panel of scientists? We're a little bit over time, but if there was any particular question. Otherwise, what I might do at this stage is ask you to join me in thanking our three panelists. And we can certainly engage over drinks, and pies, and of course, we'll walk through the song lines if you want to catch those people and learn a bit more. But on behalf of everyone, thank you very much.
So that was really a taster of the depth and the complexities that are embedded in the restoration economy. It's no longer just sticking a seed in the ground and walking off. It's about complexity, it's about listening to country, it's about learning about the diversity in that country and learning through Indigenous eyes, about the better ways to do that. And at the same time, building that Indigenous capacity.
As Curtis Tayler said in 2010, and I think it's very sage and it's actually sitting on the wall next door, "Just like the old people, we are dreaming." We're dreaming now of a different future because we have to, and in this country. We have a new dream, and that dream is shared with technology. We're using the newest technology with the oldest culture. And I think that partnership, the holding of hands, that shared vision to the future.
And, I'll say it, I think the COVID pause more, than anything else. And I see it. I have 170 acres above Verona, nobody even knew how to get to my place. Last year, the number of campervans, tent people, the rest of them. I even had a wedding couple come to me and say, "Could we get married in your forest?" Because people wanted to re-engage with nature.
I think we're in a new space. What we want to do is to keep that going and keep it going, holding hands with First Nations, and using the best possible science. And I think we've now got the critical mass here and hopefully over the next few months, we'll learn whether that critical mass will be realised through the healing country bid to the federal government, to really grow to the next stage.
And as Adam said, in five years' time, we could hold this event. And I think we will have some stories of extraordinary return of Boodja, and of the health of that country. So thank you very much. It's been a terrific evening, and can you join me once more in thanking all the panelists from tonight?
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