The first Elders’ forum for 2021 saw respected Senior Elders-On-Campus Uncle Lewis O’Brien – Kaurna Elder based at Bedford Park – Uncle Richard Fejo – Larrakia Elder based at Darwin, and Aunty Pat Miller – Arrernte Elder based at Alice Springs, share their insights and wisdom centering on the importance of Knowledge of the Land: Speaking for Country.
The forum was attended by more than 100 staff and students at Alere Function Centre and online, hosted by the Office of Indigenous Strategy and Engagement and Poche SA+NT.
Facilitated by Associate Professor Simone Tur, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous) and Dr Maree Meredith, Deputy Director Poche SA + NT, Dr Meredith shared how the Elders have played a pivotal role in shaping the presence and direction of Flinders in the central Australian corridor and at the Bedford Park campus:
“We are really excited to see what we can achieve working with the Elders this year and in years to come and are grateful that Flinders has recognised the value of Elders taking a significant leadership role in our University community,” Dr Meredith said.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Colin Stirling highlighted the importance of hearing and learning from Elders as part of Flinders’ journey, and acknowledged how the University community benefits from their wisdom, mentorship, and Indigenous knowledges.
“Our Elders are bringing for us cultural perspectives towards our activities be it student learning, research, or our everyday activities because our elders are knowledge holders, advisers, counsellors, spirit guides and healers,” Professor Stirling said.
Uncle Lewis O’Brien shared the importance of the land and significance of Tjilbruke creation story as pivotal to Flinders’ Bedford Park campus and imparted Kaurna knowledge about the weather, seasons and the skies, saying “we take and observe everything around us.”
Uncle Lewis reflected: “Once you learn to know and love your country, you can then speak for Country. By knowing country, you will learn to love and nurture what you have and not be envious of others. We have to travel the country, we get knowledge of the country, and then we can speak for country and we tell our young ones all about country.”
Aunty Pat Miller spoke about the significance of family and stories about life as a child born in Alice Springs and living on a cattle station until the age of 12.
Aunty Pat explained she is a Traditional Owner of Alice Springs Mparntwe and Native Title holder while sharing stories of growing up on country and the food and sustenance the country provides.
She remembers being taught by her grandmothers to fossick and forage for bush tucker and also the importance of passing this knowledge to the young ones.
“Learn how to walk on country and care for country, to take the kids out on country to teach them about foraging and drinking the sacred water. Water is very precious,” she said.
“Our Country is recognised as our Motherland. This is where our attachment has been for thousands of years and knowledge has been passed down to us from our immediate family, our Elders and our family.”
“Look, listen, learn” were the words and actions shared by Darwin-based Senior Elder on Campus, Uncle Richard Fejo. He went on further to convey the significance of Country, saying “Land identity is essential, gives us who we are, where we are from and what we do.”
Uncle Richard spoke of the importance of kinships systems and the importance of men in his family who pass on knowledge to the next generation. He talked about the seasons and knowledge of land and a privilege to be a part of this system, “we take weather cues to know how to hunt and forage and when to burn, we observe the seasonal practices.”
Uncle Richard expressed the generosity of Larrakia to extend this knowledge to Flinders, to share and give insight into our world view.
He closed the forum with the following message, “The University is heading in the right direction, and a direction I can completely say I believe in.”
Knowledge of the Land: Speaking for Country can be viewed here.