Unlocking the Heart of the Land: National Gathering Unites First Nations Wisdom for a Resilient Future

Barry Hunter on Djabugay Country C2A9Annette Ruzicka 46 1024x683 1

Barry Hunter on Djabugay Country ©Annette Ruzicka 

The Biri Bulmba Budang National Custodians of Country Gathering (the Gathering) starts today in Cairns with over 600 delegates from across Australia. The inaugural event, hosted by First Nations people and led by the Firesticks Alliance, aims to foster collaboration between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians to work together to address the pressing need for ecological restoration, enhanced biodiversity and community resilience.

With the intensifying impacts of a changing climate and the threats presented by the return of El Nino, understanding and adopting Cultural land management practices from Australia’s First Nations peoples is a proactive strategy to mitigate the impact of natural disasters and extreme weather, including bushfires, droughts and floods.

Gathered under the iridescent sky, an amalgamation of souls have come together for the week – custodians of the soil, protectors of biodiversity and stewards of resources. This crossroads of minds, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, propels us towards solutions that forge a path where harmony and sustainability intertwine.

Fostering a sense of unity, First Nations people and non-Indigenous Australians are coming together to share knowledge in areas of agriculture, conservation and natural resource management. The collaborative platform is exploring best practice and innovation, sharing practical information and stories, and creating partnerships to support First Nations engagement while transferring knowledge and practice. The event offers a space for communities to forge and strengthen connections invigorating cultural stewardship of the land.

Over 40 speakers will address topics such as innovation for contemporary land and sea management, biodiversity, threatened species management and best practice agriculture. Special guests include ABC TV presenter and Landcare champion Costa Georgiadis; former politician and Olympian gold medallist Nova Peris; together with Firesticks co-founder Victor Steffensen, Chair of the Aboriginal Carbon Fund, Barry Hunter, and over 41 Traditional Owners and Indigenous Ranger groups. 

Firesticks Alliance co-founder and expert Cultural fire practitioner Victor Steffensen emphasises the holistic nature of Indigenous knowledge as its significance in a contemporary context, saying: “The National Custodians of Country Gathering will showcase the entire Indigenous knowledge system and its relevance to modern society. We want to show how rich our culture and practices are across science, conservation, agriculture, language and connecting with Country, and how these various knowledge systems can be holistically applied to ensure better outcomes for our communities, future generations and the world they are set to inherit.

“Indigenous knowledge-based solutions are nature-based solutions. Through this event, we want to show how we are all stronger together – Indigenous and non-Indigenous. Send that love out there!” 

Recognising the collaborative spirit that defines landcare efforts, Landcare Australia chair Doug Humann AM acknowledges that while many landcare groups have long worked hand-in-hand with Traditional Owners and First Nations organisations, this event makes a pivotal step in our journey of shared responsibility with First Nations people. 

“This important event will lead the way on how we can come together, walk together and work together with First Nations people to integrate Cultural land and sea management into landcare practices, conservation and sustainable agriculture,” commented Humann. “Beyond this, by integrating First Nations’ knowledge and management perspectives, our land and sea-scapes across Australia will benefit and our communities and future generations will be enriched,” he adds.

Victor Steffensen on Yirrakanji Country at Dungarra – Redden Island ©Annette Ruzicka

Firesticks Alliance Indigenous Corporation is an Indigenous led network and aims to strengthen the use of cultural burning by facilitating cultural learning pathways to fire and land management. It is an initiative for Indigenous and non- Indigenous people to look after Country, share their experiences and collectively explore ways to achieve their goals. For more information please visit firesticks.org.au

Landcare Australia is a national not-for-profit organisation established more than 30 years ago, that supports the landcare community with funding, capacity-building, on-ground projects, information, networking and promotion of landcare achievements. Across Australia, our partnerships support thousands of people involved in landcare who are working to protect local ecosystems that contribute to the sustainability and productivity of our land and water assets. Together with the landcare community, our efforts improve biodiversity, build resilience in Australia’s food and farming systems, and create stronger communities. Landcare Australia is also a service provider for government programs and delivers major land restoration projects. Landcare enables people to actively care for the natural environment in their community through sustainable land management and conservation activities. For more information please visit landcareaustralia.org.au

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