Whether you have lived somewhere your whole life or recently moved to a new area, I can’t stress enough how important it is to learn from local Aboriginal knowledge holders about the area where you live. While you may think you have a strong connection and understanding of your surrounds, I can guarantee you you won’t look at the area the same after experiencing an Aboriginal guided tour. Seeing where you live through the eyes of your local Aboriginal community will give you a new appreciation for the ancient history, observations and relationships with Country the traditional custodians of this land have passed down for many generations. For example, I have driven up and down the M1 motorway between Tweed Heads and Surfers Paradise for two years now and never thought anything special about the drive, or even paid attention to my surroundings beyond the road. However, two weeks ago, a Bundjalung Elder shared with me that the Bundjalung community opposed a section of the M1 upgrade from being built in a particular area as it was a place where Bundjalung mob would pass through and stop to camp on their way to the Bunya Mountains for a cultural gathering. This significant place had abundant water sources and food availability making it a perfect place to stop and rest before resuming their journey. Local people still accessed the area for cultural reasons until their objections to the M1 (and alternative options) were ignored. Now the motorway divides the area and both sides are fenced off to the public, including the local Aboriginal community. To me, what was once a seemingly indifferent area on the drive to and from work, is now a place I think of often. I like to imagine what the area would have looked like in traditional times, and what it offered Aboriginal people as a ‘pitstop’ on their travels. But it is also a reminder of how little power Aboriginal people have to protect significant sites.
Another example is Burleigh Headland which was traditionally known as Jellurgal. There is a well trodden tourist walk around the headland with spectacular views of the Gold Coast. Thousands of people walk the footpath each week and a large majority of these people would have no idea that it is a sacred resting place for the creation being Jabreen, and also a sacred birthing area for women.
How do I know this? By attending Aboriginal cultural tours!
If my yarn has inspired you to attend a tour where you live, I would start with a simple Google search. Type in something like "Aboriginal cultural tour in [town name]". There is also a great book titled Welcome to Country (2nd Edition) by Marcia Langton which provides a list of Indigenous-owned or -operated tourism experiences across Australia!
The cultural tours I have attended have taught me about the spirits within certain landmarks, how all aspects of Country are living and breathing beings, and that Country/Mother (nature) will care for us so long as we care for her. If everyone viewed all aspects of our natural environment in this way, we would share a much more sustainable vision for our future, and we would all truly connect with the land we are all so privileged to live on.