A Walk in The Gully

Celebrating NAIDOC Week 2021

Sadly, many NAIDOC Week celebrations have been cancelled due to the current Covid outbreak but the theme for this year’s event should resonate with everyone wherever they are.

Heal Country! with an exclamation mark because yes, it is an urgent, imploring plea and message. The explanation following is taken from the NAIDOC website.

Heal Country!

Country is inherent to our identity.
It sustains our lives in every aspect – spiritually, physically, emotionally, socially, and culturally.
It is more than a place.
When we talk about Country it is spoken of like a person.
Country is family, kin, law, lore, ceremony, traditions, and language. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples it has been this way since the dawn of time.
Through our languages and songs, we speak to Country; through our ceremonies and traditions we sing to – and celebrate Country – and Country speak to us.
Increasingly, we worry about Country.
For generations Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been calling for stronger measures to recognise, protect, and maintain all aspects of our culture and heritage for all Australians.
We have continued to seek greater protections for our lands, our waters, our sacred sites and our cultural heritage from exploitation, desecration, and destruction.
We are still waiting for those robust protections.
Healing Country means hearing those pleas to provide greater management, involvement, and empowerment by Indigenous peoples over country.
Healing Country means embracing First Nation’s cultural knowledge and understanding of Country as part of Australia’s national heritage. That the culture and values of Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders are respected equally to and the cultures and values of all Australians.
The right to protect Country and culture is fundamental.
Destruction and desecration of our sacred lands or ancient sites – some of the oldest human occupation sites on the planet – is an enormous loss for both our nation and the world.
But to truly heal Country we have more to do.
Our lands will continue to burn from bushfires, droughts will continue to destroy our livelihoods, without using traditional practices that have protected this country for centuries.
For generations, our Elders and communities have advocated, marched and fought for substantive institutional, structural and collaborative reform.
The aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are the culmination of generations of consultation and discussions among our nations on a range of issues and grievances.
Healing Country means finally resolving many of the outstanding injustices which impact on the lives of our people.
It must be a fair and equitable resolution.
Fundamental grievances will not vanish. In the European settlement of Australia, there were no treaties, no formal settlements, no compacts. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people therefore did not cede sovereignty to our land. It was taken from us. That will remain a continuing source of dispute.
To Heal Country, we must properly work towards redressing historical injustice.
While we can’t change history, through telling the truth about our nation’s past we certainly can change the way history is viewed.
After 250 years, our children and our future generations deserve better.
For generations we have repeatedly called for just recognition of our right to participate on an equal basis in economic and social terms.
Yet such participation cannot be successful unless, first, there is formal recognition that Indigenous people have been dispossessed and, second, definite, specific steps are taken to redress the grave social and economic disadvantage that followed that dispossession.
Healing Country is more than changing a word in our national anthem – it is about the historical, political, and administrative landscapes adapting to successfully empower and celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, nations, and heritage.
We are all looking for significant and lasting change.
We cannot afford to let pass the very real opportunity that now presents itself for reform based on a fundamental change in the relationship Australia has with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Heal Country!

Native Edibles & Wild Weeds Walk

Photos: Bella Smith & Jules from @mtnseco

Combining bush regeneration with weed appreciation to heal Country is a central theme of the Native Edibles and Wild Weeds Walk in The Gully.

When the Co-op announced a native edibles and wild weeds walk in The Gully with Gundungurra bush-carer, David King, and Sydney weed expert, Diego Bonetto, the event sold out within hours. And it’s no wonder. The presenters alone, showmen both, with innate storytelling abilities and warm and engaging personalities, were reason enough to book a spot on the tour. But it was the context of this knowledge sharing opportunity and our interest, indeed longing, for connection to Country that powered the passion of the participants on that chilly June morning.

After being welcomed to Country with a cultural smoking ceremony and tales of the abuse, survival and repatriation of Gully Traditional Owners, David passed the baton to Diego who insisted the group of 20 or so lucky attendees also look back to rekindle the lost knowledge and ancient wisdoms of our ancestors.

The group was treated to a respectful, collaborative and fun exploration of the indigenous and introduced plant species literally under our feet. Within a short distance we became acquainted with the food and medicinal properties of weeds like plantain (both native and introduced), dock, Scotch thistle, wood sorrel, fleabane, mugwort, flatweed and poplar, and also learned about the traditional uses of indigenous plants such as lomandra, acacia, prostanthera, dianella, gahnia, and hardenbergia.

Bouncing off each other with complimentary fact sharing and insightful observations, Diego’s plant and “hippy shit” knowledge enthralled participants while David’s truth telling – from stories of the Stolen Generations to that of regeneration in the true sense of the word – offered the group a tangible sense of place.

A third Gully Walk is scheduled for Saturday 11th September is on sale now. To book tickets click here.

From left to right: Acacia longifolia, Lomandra longifolia, Dianella caerulea. Photos Bella Smith.

Taking steps

In May 2021 Blue Mountains City Council endorsed a Statement of Recognition and Commitment.

The statement was developed in consultation with The Aboriginal Advisory Council to capture First Nation perspectives, local conversations and aspirations.

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