Curtin University has hosted an event called ‘Restoration Economy: looking at restoration through an Indigenous lens’ at Boola Bardip WA Museum. Curtin described the event as follows: "The restoration economy provides a unique opportunity to improve the way we approach ecological restoration in regional and remote Australia. Discover how this innovative approach to restoring land can sustainably reconnect natural, and socioeconomic environments, to support the customary activities, traditional practices and commercial enterprise aspirations of Indigenous Australians."
There were two panels during the event. The first panel consisted of Professor Stephen van Leeuwen, BHP/Curtin Indigenous Professor in Biodiversity and Environmental Science; Ms Vivienne ‘Binyarn’ Hansen, Balladong Wadjuk Yorga woman and Owner-operator, Binyaarns Bush Medicines; Mr Oral McGuire, Director, Noongar Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Chair Noongar Land Enterprise Group, Danjoo Koorliny lead for land, fire and food; Ms Heidi Mippy, South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council, Managing Director 4x4 Dreaming, Director Djidi Djidi Aboriginal Women's Corporation.
"Our heart, our spirit, our blood, is embedded deep in this land. We have been a part of it since the beginning of time" Vivienne said. "Scientist say 65,000 years, I think we've been here since the world was created. And our people managed to look after the land. We had scientists, we had astronomers, but they had different names. And they knew what time to move, what time to harvest, what time to go fishing or whatever. It was all just passed down.
"And I always say that our people, who didn't have these buildings called universities or whatever, we must have been the smartest people in the world, because they didn't need a book to learn. You had to ni! - you had to listen, to the katitjin - to the knowledge that was being passed down to you, otherwise you'd lose it."
"It's long overdue that we start to engage with each other so that we can start caring for the land. I mean there's nothing more exhilarating than getting up when it's raining and you're out in the bush and you can actually smell the bush, you can smell the eucalyptus, you can smell the earth, and you can hear the birds sing. And what's more beautiful than our country than when the wildflowers are blooming - doesn't that colour just brighten you up? And all the different shapes of those bushes - doesn't that lift your spirits? We live in a wonderful country - we have to take care of it. And with science and Noongar katitjin I think we'll get there," Vivienne said.
"Biodiversity is the manifestation of our spirit," Oral said. "So if we're going to heal country, then the healing of country really needs to be led, as Stephen said, by Noongar and Aboriginal people as the custodians. Because the custodians and the power of the land, including this land that we sit on right here, is held in the knowledge that Aboriginal people have, and have always had - and we've still got it.
"Noongar people don't own 98% of our lands, but we know, and everybody knows, and the government has recognised through the recognition act that this is Noongar boodja and we are the custodians. So the leading of it is absolutely not about the economics; it's not about the science; it's about the spirit. And it's spirit that differentiates our world and our connection and our understanding of what this project is premised on that makes it more critical for the science world, and the commercial and corporate and political and legal worlds to understand that if we're going to have a chance at saving boodja, then on this land here, Noongar people must lead."
"For me, my part, I will be making you accountable, and Curtin university, to the wisdom and the strength and the power of the knowledge that we bring. We bring a knowledge that brings us right back to the first, but we also need help. We need help to heal - country needs healing, and country needs us to be strong," Oral said.
"In Australia 57% of the landmass has now been determined as part of the Indigenous estate, and that's only going to grow as more determinations are made, and Indigenous land-use agreements are settled," Stephen said. "In Western Australia...57% of the protected area of the state is Indigenous owned...so we're hitting above - as an ethnic group, an ethnic minority perhaps - we're doing better than the state conserving our state's flaura and fauna, although it's not recognised by the state because it's just treated as unallocated crown land."
"And then within that land there's threatened species that we are spending a lot of money on trying to protect and prevent from going extinct. And then on that land, or adjacent to it, there are significant opportunities to return that country to a better state than it currently is, and those opportunities present themselves in honey, sandalwood, bioceuticals, pharmaceuticals...things like that, and they're all great opportunities that are out there that our mob, and also our neighbours on the other side of the fence, can take advantage of if we look after country better and turn the trajectory around," Stephen said.
"What drives me is our spiritual connection to country, and country's connection to us," Heidi said. "I know through my own experience as a young 41-year-old, and through my daughters, is the minute we're out on country and on healthy country of which we belong to, no matter what trauma we've been though or experience we've had, everyones heart sings."
"When you go out to Oral's farm and see the difference that they've made there, country and spirit starts to talk to you a lot louder, doesn't it, and you see more, and you feel more, and you just don't want to leave," Heidi said.
The second panel consisted of Prof. Kingsley Dixon, Director ARC Centre for Mine Site Restoration, Curtin School of Molecular and Life Sciences; Dr Renee Young, Curtin School of Molecular and Life Sciences; Dr Adam Cross, Research Fellow, Curtin School of Molecular and Life Sciences; Dr Simone Pedrini, Director ARC Centre for Mine Site Restoration, Curtin School of Molecular and Life Sciences.
Further updates on this Curtin University initiative to come.