If you travel anywhere in Australia, you are standing in the home of one of the Aboriginal tribal groups.
Because sovereignty has never been ceded by Aboriginal people, we are still the sovereign caretakers of all the lands of Australia and regardless of the classification of the land, we belong to that land.
Homes for Aboriginal people extend beyond the physical structure of a house and encompass all their custodial lands too. We call it “our country”.
When you enter into a person’s home, if you are a respectful person, you don’t enter places that are private or that you haven’t been invited to enter. You don’t touch all the things on display. You don’t add your own trinkets to their homes. You don’t take anything that is not given to you. And you certainly don’t do something that the homeowner specifically asks you not to do in their home. Pretty common sense stuff right?!
Well, how does this translate into being in the home of Aboriginal groups?
In return for our care of the land, the land provides and nourishes all.
All people are welcome to be nourished by the lands. The lands are not subservient to people. We serve the land- not the other way around. The land must not be taken advantage of for personal gain or greed.Louise O’Reilly
Your Spiritual Safety on Aboriginal Land
Most places in Australia are free for all to experience and enjoy. There are a few places in each group’s country that are off-limits. They are similar to the private rooms of a person’s home or a place you must need to be invited to first. Some of these places are sacred sites for spiritual reasons, for ceremonial reasons and sometimes for safety reasons. Quite often, the reason Aboriginal people request that a place not be entered it’s for the personal and spiritual safety of the person and not because we are keeping something special from them. When people enter into our country, we are also responsible for their safety. Other times, a certain area might be off-limits for certain times of the year for traditional ceremonies. There are also areas that are women’s only areas and men’s only areas. These are areas that important women’s and men’s business are done. Your physical and spiritual safety can be compromised if you step into the wrong area.
Storing Knowledge in the Land
Throughout the country, certain structures, carvings, paintings and markings are made for many different reasons. Sometimes its to aid navigation or point to water sources. Sometimes its to record history, accounts and stories. Sometimes its to mark country borders and more. This is a multifaceted way that we share information, map the land and document history. When people add their own marking, add something to it or try to re-create it, not only are they being disrespectful of our knowledge modalities but they may unintentionally be messing up an ancient information or data collection system – The oldest in the world.
Sustainability and Listening to the Land
Everything has its place in our country. It’s not there for the takings of man. Most of the time, if you do want to take something, asking either the Aboriginal custodians of the land itself for permission is good practice. If you ask the land and then be still to listen, you will feel if it is ok to or not. For your information, getting stung, bitten, frightened, or anything of that nature is a great indication that you shouldn’t take it. And never take all of it. Sustainability must also be practiced. When we take too much or take it all, both that land and the people get unbalance and sick. Oh and NEVER. EVER. Take something from a sacred site. This word of warning is for your own benefit. Ever wonder why the post office near Uluru has a constant flow of Uluru rocks being returned from all around the world?
Sacred Sites and the Human Collective
Uluru offers a great segue into my next point. If the Aboriginal custodians of that country ask that you don’t do something…Like climb Uluru. Please don’t. There is always a very important reason why. Uluru is one of our most significant and sacred places in Australia and despite communicating the request not to climb, people do. People leave rubbish on it like its a garbage tip. People graffiti it. People urinate on it. People defecate on it. If that is not the most ultimate disrespect other than destroying it, I don’t know what is.
Being human does not give us the right to climb it. Being Australian does not give us the right to climb it. Being Aboriginal does not give us the right to climb it. There isn’t an uproar to climb all over peoples houses so why is there a sudden overzealous feeling of entitlement to climb Uluru or to go into any sacred area? These limitations are for all people, it doesn’t have a racial discrimination agenda.
I hope this has made the concept of home or country from an Aboriginal perspective more understandable. And given some insight as to why we ask everyone to respect certain house rules.
Please share this to help encourage respect for the lands of Australia and for Aboriginal people as the caretakers.
If this blog has given you a new perspective or given you a deeper understanding, please let me know in comments below. I would love to know how (or if) this blog has had an impact.
If you would like to read more blogs on Aboriginal perspectives, take a look at these: