By Oomera Edwards
Oomera is an indigenous woman who has been involved in Aboriginal welfare and education fields for the past 28 years. In 1980, together with Peter Read, she founded Link-Up to reunite Aboriginal adults who had been taken from their families as children. She left that to find and develop her own path as an Aboriginal woman. She has lived in Darkinjung country on the Central Coast of NSW for the past 18 years and during that time has been training with an Elder to learn Aboriginal ways of teaching about the Land. Today, Oomera operates her own business ‘Murrawan-Connecting to Country’ where she delivers training programs to all Australians on the steps involved in connecting to Country.
Connecting to Country
As humans have much work to do in connecting to this land and on ourselves that will enable us to do the connecting. Darkinjung Country on the CentralCoastis my spirit home where I learned about Aboriginal Connection to Country. The Connection is very important since the 13th Febrary 2008 Apology made space for all Australians to learn about responsible and honourable behaviour. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s behaviour about the apology mattered. He had to step forward in faith blindly since he didn’t know what the reaction would be. This is what has to happen in the land; we have to step forward to look at what is it to be an Australian, a person of the land.
What do we mean by the words land, country, bush? Australia consists of hundreds of Aboriginal countries. When you mature, you see the whole world and concepts at deepening levels, so you respect more. The nature of the land is to bring people from immaturity to maturity. Connections with country include a web of relationships through kinship systems. Aborigines over eons learned to sing and talk to the country in the language of that country. The country doesn’t respond to English! So try to listen to the local Aboriginal language. The country accepts you, but this acceptance is not well known.
Country is biological, but in us it is spiritual being. As spiritual beings, we are custodians of country. We need to be disciplined and honourable beings, and this requires a lifetime. An example of immaturity is a tantrum, so replace this as an adult with the acceptance of reality, or else be treated as a child. Country requires mature adults, not children, so this is the essence of the Aboriginal education system. We need to be in tune with whole web of natural relationships, but the main actor is country itself. We are bit players!
The steps to connecting to country are about firstly understanding that such a relationship is possible. Find a place in the land where you feel comfortable. Just sit and listen to the birds, the bush and feel the wind. This takes you out of your chatterbox head. You’ll feel the country. You’ll go out of your head and into the stillness of body!
Australians have an opportunity to begin learning about this land and to eventually find a place of belonging within it. This process of connecting will be different for each individual and it will take time, but eventually all Australians will become people of this Land in the proper sense. Not everyone is ready. We cannot force people to transform. Country is so incredibly patient: We are like ants. Country allowed people to come ashore, to make mistakes like land clearing. Connection to country can happen by cleaning up the mess, perhaps by future generations.
The Land waits.