"Fire is sacred, knowledge is sacred, country is sacred." Oral McGuire Addresses a Global Audience

Danjoo Koorliny land, food and fire project lead Oral McGuire has addressed a global audience of around 1000 people as part of the Presencing Institute’s GAIA program, co-hosted on this occasion with Danjoo Koorliny key partner Commonland.

Oral spoke about Aboriginal-led regenerative land management principles and practices, the use of fire in cultural burnings, and the experiences of working to restore his traditional country.

Oral opened the session with the Balardong Nyungar trilogy of Budjar (country), Moort (family), and Katatjin (knowledge) - quoting grannie Yurleen: “There are places where you find serenity; where you find a sense of belonging … that this is a part of our place, and these places become a part of our area, our spirit and our culture - we call this whole concept - budjar”.

Commonland’s Pieter Ploeg then led an exercise for connecting to the context of where our food actually comes from.

MIT senior lecturer Dr Otto Scharmer invited us to consider the concept of ‘violence’. Otto proposed different manifestations of this violence - direct, structural, and attentional - as it relates not only to the social realm, but also to nature and to ourselves.

Dieter Van den Broeck spoke about Commonland’s approach to large-scale landscape restoration work around the world, including their key partnership with Danjoo Koorliny.

Oral, introduced by Katie Stubley, then presented on Aboriginal land management on Noongar country. “Karla-kaany, kaatidj-kaany, boodjara-kaany - Fire is sacred, knowledge is sacred, country is sacred,” he said. He then spoke about "Kaat, Koort, Wirin - Knowing, Belonging, Spirit," as well as the Noongar kinship structure, the six Noongar seasons, sharing knowledge and songlines.

"Biodiversity is manifestation of Spirit. We are part of that...Aboriginal people see themselves as the carers of everything," he said.

"Our unique species are only found here in the south west - we have thousands of species that are of that uniqueness - that are only found in our corner of the world.”

He spoke about the significance of when a species becomes extinct.

“Boodjar - our country - actually needs us, and it’s a collective. So as Aboriginal people we talk about how science and our sacred knowledge can actually work together. How can the Western world grow value and respect for our old world, and bring it together in a way that we actually give the focus to boodjar - we make boodjar our number one - country becomes our focus, and then country will sustain us if we follow those basic principles."

Oral also spoke about “starting a new fire,” as well as “spirit fire” and cool fire with which to heal the land.

“In our culture we talk about country being sick, which makes us sick.”

He also spoke about his family’s property on Ballardong county, and showed images from 13 years ago, compared to what it has become more recently.

He concluded by mentioning Bill Gammage's book The Biggest Estate on Earth, which details the early coloniser’s accounts of the Australian landscape as being an intricately well-managed ‘estate’ akin to the estates of their homelands.

“Can we recreate ‘the greatest estate on Earth’? My view is that we’re running out of time. In fact we may have, in many ways, run out of time… but the opportunity for us to do that is still there. And some significant changes really need to be made if the Earth is going to regenerate itself through our support, and through the work that all of us, I’m sure, are committed to. And I think we need to see the power shifts - that to me is the greatest challenge.”

Watch the full recording here.

Scribing by Olaf Baldini