Lunch with Leaders – Discussing ‘Heal Country’ for NAIDOC Week 2021

  • 10 July 2021

On Thursday 8th July, Auspire hosted a special Lunch with Leaders for NAIDOC Week, to discuss the theme of ‘Heal Country’ with Dr Richard Walley OAM and Professor Helen Milroy. The current WA Senior Australian of the Year and WA Australian of the Year gave passionate and thought-provoking responses to the subject of the importance of the land and how people are entwined within it.

The session began with a seamless Welcome to Country from Richard, followed by a description from Helen of her recent painting ‘Mother Earth’, on which she explains “as Mother Earth nurtured mankind, in turn, mankind accepted their custodianship of country and learnt to maintain the balance of life.”

This led us onto the first question of the hour: how can new Australians begin to understand and appreciate the traditional beliefs and importance of Country?

“Modern conversation starts about the person or the purpose, but the impact on place is very important, because place allows plants, animals, people to coexist,” Richard explained. “We see the whole Earth as a woven piece of fabric that’s connecting all the elements. Aboriginal people have always understood that there is a greater power than all of us – the sun. The sun allows this planet to exist. We are a part of the tapestry and not the creators of the tapestry or the whole tapestry.”

Helen echoed Richard, celebrating the Indigenous approach to human life and Country and how that helped to teach children and lead enriched lives for thousands of years.

“There’s a good reason why Aboriginal people are the oldest continuous living culture – we understood the importance of relationship rather than ownership, “she said. “Being imbedded within nature is good for all children. One of my goals is to make sure we allow all Australian children to be embedded and appreciate the relationships with everything that lives around them and take on that custodianship as they become adults.”

Of course, there would be no need for healing if there was no damage or harm caused in the first place. Richard referred to “examples of feral animals and exotic plants that have been brought in and colonisation. They don’t come quietly, they don’t try to listen – they come with a loud bang, ignorance and arrogance, thinking they have a better way.”

A few moments later, while answering a viewer question on healing intergenerational trauma, Helen stressed that “while we’ve had progress, we haven’t understood the magnitude of what happened. When we talk about intergenerational trauma, we’re talking about genocide. If you understand the magnitude, then you can start to think about what might be required for recovery, not only of the people but of the land and what we’ve done to the country.”

What can we do now? Richard encourages everyone to “stimulate conversation, prick the consciousness and appeal to common sense and decency.”

Solid advice from a knowledgeable and inspirational individual.

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