Skip to main content
Kookaburra perched in a tree stump
News_

Back to the past for future Earth

5 July 2017
Learning from the old ways for contemporary, holistic management

A sustainable future can’t be achieved through mere observation of our Indigenous people. D’harawal Knowledge Keeper, Shannon Foster invites us to learn from old ways and incorporate contemporary science for holistic management.

Shannon Foster

The words of my D’harawal Aunty rings in my ears; “To know the future we must first know the past” and what is the future of our Earth without an understanding of how it has survived thousands of generations of human habitation without the destruction of the past few centuries?

Across the globe, whilst some may still be in an arrogant and blissful state of denial, the fact remains that if we continue the destruction of the Earth’s natural resources, at this current rate, we will also destroy the future of humanity on this planet. Thankfully (though it may have taken a few hundred years of colonisation) the western world can now happily acknowledge that Indigenous people have the right ideas when it comes to managing the Earth’s resources for a reliable and sustainable future. It would make sense then to learn from Indigenous people how to employ land management strategies that benefit the Earth and the creatures on it.

But this is not just about observing Indigenous activities and behaviours on Country and then applying what you think you might have seen – case in point; the destruction that is the modern world’s interpretation of fire management through back burning. The sight of Indigenous people back burning is only a small part of a much larger story and body of knowledge. It is the holistic approach of Indigenous knowledges that has to be understood and through the eyes of those most fit to see it – Indigenous people themselves.

And this is where our future Earth sits – in between two extremely diverse cultures and ways of being – old ways and new ways – working together in collaboration for the benefit of our future and our children’s futures.
Shannon Foster

Across Australia (and the world) programs are now operating to employ Indigenous rangers to look after Country in the ways of the Old People. In southeast Arnhem Land, Yugul Mangi Women Rangers are employing old knowledges with contemporary science and data collection to ensure the biodiversity, health and future of their natural environment. And this is where our future Earth sits – in between two extremely diverse cultures and ways of being – old ways and new ways – working together in collaboration for the benefit of our future and our children’s futures.

For that is where we should leave our mark – in the hearts and minds of our children. Not on the Earth. Not in the water, the land, the sea or the sky but with our people, just as our Ancestors and Elders have done for us to be here today. My life is their future and I represent them. Life is not an individual pursuit for a D’harawal. It is the culmination of thousands of years of life, knowledge and collaboration and that is where we will find our future Earth.

Related articles