Aligning to Care for Country in Western Australia

Updated: Dec 14, 2020

WA landscape partners able to attend in-person at UWA.

Partners also joined online.

Danjoo Koorliny recently hosted the Western Australian partners of its key partner Commonland - a Dutch-based organisation that works with organisations throughout the world on landscape restoration and community regeneration initiatives - for a meeting to further align related work across the state.

The December 3 meeting was called Caring for Country in Western Australia, and was led by Oral McGuire and Carol Innes, together with Ezra Jacobs-Smith and Elisha Jacobs-Smith.

Many of the individuals and organisations that came together are active in the regeneration of landscapes and the transformation of our food and agriculture systems.

Commonland’s Jim Mackintosh and Dieter Van den Broeck joined around half a dozen people online, and around 20 people in person at UWA.The following is a reflection by Jim on the meeting:

“Dieter and I had the privilege of joining a session attended by around 30 people - on and offline - made up of our partners in Western Australia. People / individuals present included the Elders and leaders of Danjoo Koorliny (spanning three generations), RegenWA, Wide Open Agriculture, Perth Natural Resource Management, Centre for Social Impact at the University of Western Australia (CSI UWA), the Regional Regeneration Alliance, Sustain, the Noongar Land Enterprise Group - both members and management - Chief Scientist of Western Australia Peter Klinken, and some of our farming and funding partners.

What started out a few months back as an idea for our partners to come together to discuss collective impact and how potentially they could jointly report on that, became so much more.

It turned into what felt to Dieter and me like a watershed moment where, under the guidance and leadership of the Noongar Elder and leader group, the first steps were made for this group of people / organisations to truly walk together (danjoo koorliny) towards a more just and sustainable future in Western Australia, which can serve as an example for the rest of the country and, indeed, the world.

It is hard to describe what this shift represents; where Indigenous cultural governance and authority can be leading in a system dominated by western philosophies and structures since the colonisation of Perth in 1829. It is not about throwing all of those structures out and returning to what it was like in 1829, but about finding a way forward where everyone is welcome; where we can heal ourselves and the land; where everyone has a voice; where traumas can be spoken of and acknowledged - from stolen land, to the stolen generations where children were taken from their families, to stolen culture - and to move to collective action.

This shift Dieter and I felt is also one of many shifts taking place through Danjoo Koorliny - in institutions, in government, and elsewhere.

The session was led and facilitated by Oral McGuire and Carol Innes. Everybody had the chance to make opening remarks, and the conversation was guided and led by Carol and Oral thereafter. Some amazing quotes and feedback that I noted from Carol, Oral and Ezra Jacobs-Smith (part of the DK leadership group and of the younger generation):

  • Biodiversity is the manifestation of spirit

  • No one knows how to stop, to just sit on the land, on country, and just be, and have the faith that country will take care of and provide for you

  • The land needs a rest, to recover, and it won't get that rest until we do. That is our responsibility

  • This collective space needs to be a place of optimism and energy; where the truth can be spoken. It cannot be a place where anyone relives their own trauma. It is the responsibility of the group to create that safe space

  • There can be no reconciliation without truth. The truth needs to be spoken and acknowledged before reconciliation can take place

  • The Noongar nation is at its strongest point ever just when the land, our country, is weakest. We have to act.

Shenali Perera, who does much of the amazing visual scribing for CSI UWA, was also present. I was touched by her comment that it wasn't necessarily a 'pretty picture', but one that we need to see, and one that reflects the system as it is and where we want to move towards.

To make the shift from a session on collective impact to what I have described above was not an accident. It required a number of conversations and significant preparation 'behind the scenes'. This was undertaken by Ronnie Duncan, Keith Pekin, Katie Stubley and John Stubley, under the leadership and guidance of Carol, Oral, Ezra and the other Danjoo Koorliny Elders: Colleen Hayward, Richard Walley and Noel Nannup, who weren't able to join us on the day.

This, for me, is the power of what we have the privilege to do and are able to be a part of; where we listen to and support our partners in a journey of cultural, ecological, social and economic restoration. It is also a reflection of the power of our 'labs' activities, where we are able to contribute to creating a space where the truth can be spoken, and all parties within a system can sense and reflect, and then together move towards collective action.

It was truly humbling to be a part of and I am also grateful to Dieter for how we are able to work side-by-side in WA, strengthening and supporting each other” (Jim Mackintosh, Commonland).

Scribing from the session by Shenali Perera (please don’t share outside of this context).

The meeting was followed by dinner nearby.