The Importance of Country

For many First Nations Australian people in Australia, land is much more than soil, rocks or minerals. It’s a living environment that sustains, and is sustained by, people and culture. Before colonisation, the reciprocal relationship between people and the land underpinned all other aspects of life for First Nations Australian people. Today, this relationship with the land and their ancestors remains fundamental to the identity and way of life of many First Nations Australian people.

Jeffrey Newchurch a Kaurna Elder

Jeffrey Newchurch a First Nations Kaurna Elder.

Connection to Country

For many First Nations Australian people, land relates to all aspects of existence - culture, spirituality, language, lore, family and identity. Rather than owning land, each person belongs to a piece of land which they’re related to through the kinship system. That person is entrusted with the knowledge and responsibility to care for their land, providing a deep sense of identity, purpose and belonging.

This intimate knowledge of the land and ways of relating to it are also reflected in language, including many words and concepts that have no English equivalent. This deep relationship between people and the land is often described as ‘Connection to Country’.

The Way We Treat Land Matters

The relationship between many First Nations Australian people and the land is one of reciprocity and respect - the land sustains and provides for the people, and the people sustain and manage the land through culture and ceremony.

Because of this close connection, when the land is disrespected, damaged or destroyed, this can have real impact on the wellbeing of First Nations Australian people.

Disconnection from Country

It is important to understand the importance of land for First Nations Australian people, so we can begin to understand why dislocation from land has had such devastating effects on many First Nations Australian people and cultures. For many First Nations Australian people, colonisation did more than steal their land, it stole their very identity. Despite this history, today, many First Nations Australian people maintain a close connection to their country.

First Nations Women applying traditional face paint
First Nations Woman with traditional face paint
First Nations Men in traditional dress
First Nations Man in traditional dress standing in bushes
First Nations Men in traditional dress passing Coolamon with fire
First Nations Man in traditional dress telling dreamtime story

Living Together on This Land

However, we are required to respect the land in return. Honouring this reciprocal relationship with the land is central to First Nations Australian culture and is a concept important for all people living in Australia today.

'We don't own the land; the land owns us'
'The Land is my mother; my mother is the land'
'Land is the starting point to where it all began. It is like picking up a piece of dirt and saying this is where I started, and this is where I will go'
'The land is our food, our culture, our spirit and identity'
'We don't have boundaries like fences, as farmers do. We have spiritual connections'

First Nations Men in traditional dress looking over land

The Gift is the Journey of Healing

The Journey of Healing can be a wonderful journey of self-discovery and discovery of others. And it can also build relationships in families, communities and across nations and countries.

While many might claim that the disruption to the cultures and social systems of Australian First Nations people; the impacts on our relationships within our families and across our diverse communities and cultures; harm to our homelands, and environments has damaged not just ourselves but all of Australia. We offer a healing way forward for us all. We are all in this together. We need to journey together, into the future.

Much has been written about trauma, in colonisation, in war zones, in environmental disasters: in homes and communities. Children removed. Denigration of culture and community. Environmental destruction of our homelands. Pathways into Juvenile Detention and Prisons as Industry. 

Trauma is not just individual but it is communal – it is contagious and transferable within families and communities across social systems and generations and we come to believe the pain we feel is normal. (see Trauma Trails). But we First Nations peoples are on a Journey of Healing. The future is in our hands. Join us.

First Nations Australia offer here, our cultural and creative skills and invite you to journey with us. We see a future we can build that is different to that which came with the prison hulks at 1788. We see a future where healing is possible as we learn and grow together, looking after country as we look after each other.

We showcase here opportunities for you to learn about us, what is happening in our communities, (books art food clothing jewellery), linking you to information and organisations that can assist you to undertake your journey of growth and healing with us. 

This country now called Australia calls on its ancient civilisations to lead us into the future. Welcome to this journey of discovery and healing.

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