The First Landcarers : National Reconciliation Week

Published 31st May 2024. Written by Maddison O’Brien

In the spirit of National Reconciliation Week, we recognise the Indigenous leaders in our community. We are grateful to local elders and First Nations people who continue to show up, sharing their wisdom, culture, and practices. Watershed Landcare’s vision is Healthy Land, Healthy Communities. This vision cannot be realised without reconciliation with First Nations people. The first landcarers were the first people, and we acknowledge that they’re still here, caring for Country and we all have a lot to learn through collaboration and listening.

Reconciliation Week invites all Australians to confront some harsh truths about colonisation and its enduring impacts on Aboriginal communities. Colonisation brought upheaval to the lives of Indigenous Australians. It led to the dispossession of land, massacres, the suppression of culture, and the implementation of policies that resulted in the Stolen Generations. The effects of these actions are still deeply felt today. Understanding these truths is crucial for fostering a genuine reconciliation process.

We pay our respects to elders, past, present, and emerging. We’ve all heard this line during an acknowledgement of Country.  Den Barber, the Aboriginal Partnerships Manager for Landcare NSW, reminds us that it is important to go beyond acknowledgement as a ‘tick the box’ exercise. How can we foster reconciliation with meaningful actions? How can we educate ourselves to create culturally safe environments for Indigenous people?

As Landcarers, we can play an active role in reconciliation through supporting Indigenous-led initiatives wherever possible. We give thanks for the opportunity to have worked alongside the Local Aboriginal Land Council (LALC), who are continually active in our community, educating people about Indigenous culture and protecting Wiradjuri heritage. The LALC plays such a vital role in advising community projects like the new native plant garden being realised at Putta Bucca Wetlands, a collaborative initiative between LALC, Mid-Western Regional Council, and Watershed Landcare.

Emma Syme from NEWco leads a Landcare group during a Clean Up Day at Reserve near Rylstone

North East Wiradjuri Company (NEWco) is a skilled team focused on providing opportunities to First Nations people and working on projects that look after Country using Indigenous land management practices. We are privileged to have worked with the NEWco team, notably for a series of ‘Clean Up’ events at a reserve near Rylstone. NEWco needed help cleaning up decades of rubbish from a beautiful patch of native forest, so we helped by rallying some volunteers to come along and get their hands dirty. This is reconciliation in action.

Reconciliation begins with you. Educate yourself about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history; there is an eye-opening exhibition at the Mudgee Arts Precinct that is essential viewing for locals: *Guwayu: for all time*. Other ideas are to support Indigenous businesses, volunteer, and participate in local events. Where we stand is Aboriginal land. Always was, always will be.