Collaboration sees Aboriginal people back as custodians of their lands

The Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation are taking an active role in the management of six state and national parks and reserves which are within the Country which was returned to the Dja Dja Wurrung people in a recognition agreement in 2013.

The Dhelkunya Dja Land Management Board, will manage the parks and reserves in partnership with Parks Victoria. They have appointed CSIRO to lead the creation of a Joint Management Plan, which will have Dja Dja Wurrung’s 20-year vision for people (Jaara) and country (Djanderk) at its centre.

 

A gathering of Dja Dja Wurrung people, at Hepburn Regional Park, one of the six parks being jointly managed by the Dhelkunya Dja Land Management Board.

 

Graham Atkinson, chairperson of the board, who was instrumental in negotiating recognition of traditional ownership with the state government says:

“Our Country Plan acknowledges that we must transmit our cultural heritage to younger generations. The Dja Dja Wurrung people have kept their connection to country alive through oral history, as well as through researching historical publications written at the time of European settlement.”

Dr Ro Hill, who will be leading the CSIRO team as they develop the joint management plan, recognises the importance of ‘weaving together’ traditional and scientific knowledge in order to benefit from both. He also believes that some of the ways of seeing the land enshrined in traditional knowledge, such as a focus on larger, more visible species, may be make the parks management strategy more accessible to the public. In the same vein, he notes that the holistic way of understanding how humans and the landscape are connected has influenced national parks management worldwide, as exemplified by Parks Victoria’s ‘Healthy Parks, Healthy People’ campaign.

Re-post ~ Returning good health to country and spirit by Mary-Lou Consdine in ECOS

Massacre map will force Australians to re-examine our country’s roots

Researchers at the University of Newcastle are attempting to gain a clearer picture of events during the frontier wars by gathering evidence of massacres of Indigenous people which are seldom discussed and have never made it into most history books.

 

 

Lead researcher Lyndall Ryan and her team are going right back to explorer and settler records and using Indigenous oral history as their sources. Their strict criteria for inclusion in the map, and the difficulty of finding accounts due to the fact that the perpetrators usually covered their tracks well, means that their estimates are conservative. Nevertheless, they estimate that more than 65,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were killed in massacres or conflicts between 1788 and 1930 in Queensland alone.

The map was released on the 5th of July and will be added to over time. The researchers hope that others will contribute to the project so as to build the most accurate picture possible of the events during the frontier wars, changing the way this period of Australian history is understood and taught. However, Ryan acknowledges that this will be confronting, both for the researchers themselves and for the Australian pubic, who may not wish to face up to this brutal version of their country’s history.

 

“I would like to hope that over the next five or 10 years there will be a much wider acceptance that this was a feature of colonial Australia, and it will change the way we think about Australia,” she said.

 

Re-post ~ Map of massacres of Indigenous people reveals untold history of Australia, painted in blood by Calla Wahlquist in The Guardian

Climate change leads to huge infrastructure cost on Torres Strait island

The economic costs of rising sea levels due to climate change are beginning to hit home as a $24.5m sea wall is completed on Saibai Island in the Torres Strait.

The small island just off the coast of Papua New Guinea has been suffering the effects of land erosion and flooding due to rising sea levels for years. At one point it was feared that its 350 inhabitants would have to be permanently evacuated. However, in 2014, under the Torres Strait Seawalls Project, the Australian Federal and Queensland governments pledged a total of $26.2 million to help the islands deal with the crisis.

$24 million has now been spent building only one seawall on Saibai and, whilst this sea wall is expected to protect the community and its livelihood for 50 years, it leaves little money for infrastructure on the other 5 islands in need of protection. Preliminary talks to try and secure more funding are now underway.

However, with sea levels rising by millimetres every year, inhabitants of the other islands can not afford to wait for beaureaucracy. They are at risk of losing land and culture in the very near future, despite adaptation plans which are being developed. This is especially true for the narrow coral island of Poruma, to the south of Saibai.

 

“Time is very critical in terms of getting some work underway so we can actually protect and combat erosion at Poruma — Poruma doesn’t have time to wait,” said Torres Strait Mayor, Fred Gela.

 

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The old, damaged sea wall on Saibai Island.

 

Sabai Island’s new seawall. which cost nearly $25 million and is a harbinger of the huge costs climate change could bring to governments and taxpayers worldwide.

 

Queensland Minister for Local Government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, Mark Furner said that the Palaszczuk Government’s $12 million contribution to the Torres Strait Seawalls Project demonstrated their commitment to improving communities in regional and remote parts of Queensland.

 

“These are Queenslanders facing real risks to their homes and livelihoods as a result of the impacts of climate change, so to be able to provide a long‐term infrastructure solution is a great win for this community.”

 

However, it remains to be seen if government will remain so committed and optimistic as the inevitable economic costs of climate change continue to rise.

 

Read more ~ Saibai islanders celebrate new $24.5m seawall to fight rising ocean levels in Torres Strait by Emilia Terzon for ABC News

Read more ~ Minister Scullion: Saibai Island Seawalls ready to hold back the tide on indigenous.gov.au

News in indigenous languages helps Aboriginal Australians connect with the world

The theme of this year’s NAIDOC week was ‘Our Languages Matter’ and to prove the point an ABC News article showcased three Indigenous translators who bring the Australian and International news to their language communities in their own language, through the Aboriginal Interpreter Service (AIS). 

This adds huge value for Aboriginal people in areas where English may be their fourth or fifth language and may never be spoken at home. Hearing the news in their own first language enables people to connect with the issues facing the world at large.

 

“It helps them understand the news better when they hear it in their language — it gives them a better understanding of what it’s about.” Says Tyrone Holmes, who is a Kriol interpreter for AIS.

 

Tyrone Holmes says that reading the news in Kriol helps his community and others stay up to date with issues which affect them. He feels proud to keep the Kriol language strong as it is an important part of many people’s identity.

 

Nadyezhda Pozzana is from the island community of Galiwinku in East Arnhem Land and speaks five languages. She translates the ABC news into Ylongu Matha. “Even the elders and the senior members of my community say, ‘We listen to the radio more now because now we know what’s being said and what’s happening in the day-to-day national and international news.'” She says.

 

Maggie Burns grew up learning Warlpiri and Pintupi-Luritja from her mother and is fluent in both. One challenge is that some English words cannot be directly translated, but for Maggie another challenge is that some of the news she must translate is about such horrible events. However, she believes it is important for her to continue doing her job so that people can understand what is going on in the world. “I am very privileged to know how to speak my language and that’s a gift so it’s very important to me.”

 

Re-post ~ NAIDOC Week: News in Indigenous language enables understanding of local, global events by Mark Rigby on ABC News

The Nuka System of Care ~ Indigenous healthcare for the people, by the people

A revolutionary health care system run by and for indigenous people and incorporating indigenous healthcare perspectives has become an international model for health care reform.

Since Southcentral Foundation (SCF) began overseeing healthcare provision for Alaska Native and American Indian people in Alaska, emergency room visits have dropped by 36%. Deaths from cancer, heart disease, and cerebrovascular disease have dropped by 26%, 47%, and 59%, respectively and infant mortality has also dropped by 58%. This has all been achieved while also cutting costs.

 

In the lobby of Southcentral Foundation’s Anchorage Native Primary Care Center, Alaska Native artists sell their work under “Bird Spirit Mask” by Inupiat artist Sylvester Ayek. (Photo Courtesy of Southcentral Foundation)

 

SCF serves a population of 136,000 native people spread out over 108,000 square miles, including more than 200 native villages, many of which are only accessible by boat or air. The system involves partnerships with 51 village health clinics, medical teams who regularly travel to villages and tele-medicine, and is centred around the Native Primary Care Centre in Anchorage, where nearly half of the entire population of Alaska lives.

The health centre has the feel of a community centre and is decorated with indigenous art and craft, which increases pride and self-confidence in its ‘customerowners’ (as users of the clinic are called). It also has open offices and offers integrated treatments including complementary and traditional medicine, support with substance abuse, mental health, and home health. This all forms part of a preventative approach which aims to deal with the root causes of illness and to encourage healthy lifestyle choices.

 

“Emphasis on prevention and integrated healthcare delivery results in less demand for specialty care and fewer emergency room visits. Equally important is the understanding that physical health is bound to social and spiritual wellbeing. Wellness, in this model, comes from facilitating cultural connection and strengthening families and communities.”

 

SCF recognises that indigenous people are at particular risk of health issues because of their history, with the fallout from years of epidemics, high levels of child abuse in missions and boarding schools and the loss of culture, community and identity all contributing to current high levels of domestic and child abuse and drug and alcohol misuse. To counter this, the effects of multi-generational trauma are treated by tribal doctors along with current health issues in an integrated, holistic process.

 

A customer-owner receives care from Tribal Doctor Steven Booth in Southcentral Foundation’s Traditional healing clinic. (Photo courtesy of Southcentral Foundation)

 

Preventative, holistic healthcare would seems to make sense for us all, but the Nuka System of Care developed by Southcentral Foundation has particular relevance for indigenous communities because of the specific issues those communities face and the way it leverages the rich traditional knowledge that is already present.

SCF offer training, site visits and consulting to share this system with other healthcare providers worldwide.

Re-post ~ Native Wisdom Is Revolutionizing Health Care by Shari Huhndorf in SSIR

Bush foods set to boom, but will Aboriginal Australians benefit?

What do Kakadu Plums, Champagne and Camenbert Cheese have in common? Not much as yet. But some people would like to see Australia adopt rules and policies for bush foods which protect the interests of the place they come from and the people who hold special knowledge about them, as is the case in Europe. This would ensure traditional owners have a stake in the exploitation of these foods and are reimbursed for their intellectual property.

In Europe, “products that are deeply rooted in tradition, culture and geography” are sometimes covered by ‘protected geographical indications‘ which only allow, for example, sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France to be called Champagne. These rules support rural development by establishing a unique provenance that in turn can create jobs in processing and production of these commodities locally.

 

The Kakadu Plum, also known as the Billygoat Plum, is sought after as a great source of vitamin C and has long been used as bush medicine by Aboriginal people.

 

Wendy Morgan, chair of the Gandangara Local Aboriginal Land Council, argues that such measures are necessary since currently corporations have no qualms about exploiting indigenous knowledge, and this is a missed opportunity to generate income for Aboriginal communities.

 

“You’ll have the big pharmaceutical companies coming out and talking to [Aboriginal communities] and taking samples of their medicines. They might acknowledge where they got it from, but there is no money going back into that community they got the information from.”

 

Under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, when products are taken from specific locations the benefits from those products should be shared with the providers of those resources, be they national governments or indigenous communities.

However, there are loopholes in Australian law which allow international companies to bypass this process. There is also the possibility that Aboriginal people could be legislated out of their own heritage, as almost happened in when a major US cosmetics company tried to patent an extract of Kakadu Plum.

These issues are all the more relevant because the bush food market, including other well-known native Australian plants such as lemon myrtle, wattle seed, finger lime, warrigal greens, quandong and bush tomatoes, appears to be on the verge of booming. It has even been suggested that Australia may have to start importing bush foods to meet demand.

According to Jocelyn Grant, the general manager of First Australians Capital, one of the major factors holding back the bush food market is lack of supply due to current protocols. These mandate that when a not-for-profit business that processes, for example, Kakadu plums, seeks government grants and financial support they have to sign over all the IP to the government. She’d like to see this change.

 

“Why wouldn’t we look at a whole-of-government strategy where not only are we protecting indigenous foods and the rights of people passing on knowledge about those foods ~ but also the value to the Australian economy is huge because it is an export opportunity,” she says.

 

Re-post ~ Protecting the Kakadu in Kakadu plums: selling bush foods to the world by Fiona Smith in The Guardian

Read more ~

Online art store bridges the gap between Aboriginal artists and art buyers

A pair of entrepreneurial brothers have opened up their Australian online art-selling platform to remote outback art centres, allowing hundreds of previously isolated indigenous artists direct access to art buyers around the world.

Edward and George Hartley founded Bluethumb to address two major issues they saw within the art industry: a way for normal people to buy art, and assisting emerging artists to find a market. Their online platform solves both of these problems in one fell swoop by giving artists a forum to display their work directly to art enthusiasts, no matter how far removed the two may be geographically. This has clear benefits for the many Aboriginal artists living in remote areas.

By working in partnership with some of the 90 or so art centres in regional Northern Territory, South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland, the brothers have opened up and simplified the sales process for some of the 13,000 Aboriginal artists represented by these organisations. They currently have 3% Aboriginal artists on their books, a figure which is in line with the percentage of Aboriginal people in Australian society, and they are firmly committed to encouraging more to join.

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Aboriginal artist Angilyiya Mitchell at Papulankutja Artists art centre, WA ~ one of the first art centres to collaborate with Bluethumb.

The results so far have been promising with all eight arts centres making sales in the first fortnight. Mel Henderson, the interim art centre manager of Papulankutja Artists in Blackstone community (800km from Alice Springs in the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands) is pleased with the relationship.

 

“Bluethumb is fast becoming a strong advocate promoting not only the work of artists yet also the work remote arts centres do.”

 

Bluethumb employs a simple business model appears to be making a genuine effort to recruit Aboriginal artists. This makes for an unprecedented opportunity for them to get their work out to appreciative audiences worldwide.

Re-post ~ Ethical art: how online entrepreneurs are selling Indigenous artists to the world by Paul Daley in the Guardian

See more ~ Bluethumb online Aboriginal art gallery

Ancient perennial grain experiments seek to revive culture and revolutionise agriculture

A group of Aboriginal people on the south coast of NSW are reviving some of the traditional crops and farming practices which would have characterised the pre-colonial Australian landscape.

The Gurandgi Munjie Food Company (from Yuin country) have had great success cultivating native fruits and vegetables as well as harvesting tubers from yam daisies over the last five years. They have also begun harvesting crops of Kangaroo Grass and Panicum Decompositum, both perrenial grains. They began as volunteers and have recently had success with two crowdfunding campaigns to expand their operations into a commercial enterprise.

“[We seek] to provide permanent employment and training for young Aboriginal people and to supply healthy products to Australia from plants adapted to Australian conditions”

 

Kangaroo Grass, a native Australian perennial grain.

Kangaroo Grass, one of the native Australian perennial grains which Gurandgi Munjie hopes to harvest and turn into a commercial product.

 

These plants were staple crops which fed the large populations of Aboriginal Australians who cultivated them and which are inherently well-suited to local conditions. This is in stark contrast to the food crops brought over from Europe which currently dominate our agriculture and supermarket shelves and require significant irrigation and often artificial fertilisers and pesticides to maintain on Australian soils.

Perrenial grains have very large root structures which help them survive in poor soil with little water. They also eliminate the need for the land to be ploughed so soil doesn’t become compacted and less diesel and labour is needed. They also sequester carbon year on year and prevent soil erosion and salination.

Author Bruce Pascoe, who has Bunurong, Tasmanian and Yuin Indigenous heritage, helped to start the project and would like to see it growing enough Kangaroo Grass and Panicum Decompositum to grind into grain and sell as bread flour. He also points out that Aboriginal Australians were probably the first people to bake bread, as evidenced by grindstones at Cuddie Springs in northern New South Wales that have been dated as being around 30,000 years old.

Pascoe’s book Dark Emu, Black Seeds: Agriculture or Accident has sparked a wave of interest in traditional Australian crops and a new understanding of the complexity of pre-colonial Australian society.

As Max Allen pointed out in his profile of the project for Gourmet Traveller Magazine, these are not novelty bush foods but, “everyday foods that were once widely grown and eaten in those parts of the country where most Australians now live.

 

Read more:

~ Dark Emu, Black Seeds: Agriculture or Accident? by Bruce Pascoe

Gurandgi Munjie Facebook Page

~ Indigenous Agriculture: Australia’s Hidden Past by Belinda Evans in The Plant Hunter

Let’s acknowledge Aboriginal success stories

Aboriginal writer and Indigenous Affairs editor for ABC News, Stan Grant, questions the ‘received wisdom’ that Aboriginal Australians are downtrodden in a recent article

 

Whilst acknowledging the history of ‘injustice and segregation’ and the accompanying disadvantage that Aboriginal Australians face on their way to success, Grant points out that ‘identity framed around misery can become a self-fulfilling prophecy’.

Instead, Grant encourages us all to wake up to the reality of the swathes of successful indigenous Australians who populate all aspects of Australian life.

Grant’s experience at the recent conference organised by Supply Nation highlighted this, as he found himself in a room full of highly successful Aboriginal people such as Kyle Vander Kuyp and Mark Ella, many of whom are millionaires and each of whom has earned their success through hard work and determination.

Grant would have us take notice of and celebrate the success of the vast number of Aboriginal people who have engaged with white Australia on their own terms, in order that we move away from the dominant stereotype of Aboriginal people as ‘demoralised, disadvantaged people’.

 

Aboriginal people are creating success in all areas of Australian life: Jim Wooding runs a thriving cabinet-making business on the Gold Coast (Karen & Jim Wooding – Directors)

 

“The Indigenous middle class is growing. Indigenous people are on our television screens, on our stages and our sporting fields.

We don’t tell this story often enough. We don’t even yet have a language for Aboriginal success.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aboriginal lawyer Noel Pearson speaks of the double-edged sword of ‘soft racism’ from the white population, in the form of low expectations, and potential hostility from Aboriginal peers in the face of success. He counters this with examples of Aboriginal people who don’t pay attention to either narrative.

Grant also points out the importance of acknowledging the ‘alternate history’ of Aboriginals who engaged with white colonists, not as victims, but with dignity and success. He highlights the economic boom after World War II and the wave of ‘Aboriginal economic migrants’ who fought to find work and housing and schooling for their children, and their grandchildren, who are now graduating university in droves.

Re-post ~Don’t call them disadvantaged: Successful Australians redefining what it is to be Indigenous by Stan Grant for ABC News

Read more ~ Aboriginal success stories