Last week saw the eruption of a natural gas pipeline in the Mexican Gulf.
Aflame and boiling, the scene was like that of a disaster movie as state-owned petroleum company Pemex took five hours to put out the inferno, as their oil rig stood just outside of the fire’s reach. The scene was shocking, and social media was alive with calls for an end to the fossil fuel industry. This disaster comes after raging bushfires savaged much of Australia’s east coast, and after a report was published which declared half of the Great Barrier Reef dead due to increasing ocean temperatures. Climate change has been felt more than ever these past few years, and with this year’s NAIDOC Week theme a call to “Heal Country!” there is an urgent need to look to traditional methods of sustainability and environmental care.
Activists like Amelia Telford are leading the push for Indigenous Australian-led climate action.
The founder of Seed, an offset of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC), Amelia is an Aboriginal and South Sea Islander woman from Bundajalung country. Her efforts to position Indigenous Australians at the forefront of the climate movement have seen Seed grow exponentially since its launch in 2014. Amelia emphasises “it is not only strategic and important [that] we work with people who are directly impacted by climate change, but it is also immoral if we don’t”. Seed emphasises the necessity for strong Indigenous voices in the fight against climate change, and calls us all to protect the land which Indigenous Australians have cared for and lived on for thousands of years.
Gundungurra-raised Gunai woman Kirli Saunders uses storytelling to shift dominant colonial narratives of environmental action.
Her award-winning novel, Bindi, is an unguarded glimpse into the horror of the bushfires which spread throughout Australia’s eastern coast in 2019–20. The push for traditional methods of burning and land management is a step in the right direction, and organisations like The Nature Conservancy are partnering with Indigenous Australians to return to strategically lit fires in the cooler months; knowledge which has been practiced for thousands of years, and thankfully survived colonisation.
So how can we work to heal Country?
Academic Bhiamie Williamson invites us to explore what Country is, and how we relate to it. More than a landscape, Country is its own being; one which we rely upon to sustain us. Thinking of the land we live on as a living entity, rather than as a tool or a thing that bends to our will, is a start. Bhiamie also emphasises the need for action, not just understanding. Writing a letter to your local MP, making a submission to the Jukan Gorge enquiry, or donating to causes which support Indigenous land and sea management are all ways allies can help propel the push against climate change.
This year, let’s all continue to support the effort to Heal Country after NAIDOC Week.
Indigenous Australians existed peacefully on Country for thousands of years, and share with us the wisdom needed to stop the alarming progression towards a looming climate crisis. With such invaluable information and methods of sustainability, we cannot afford to be the generation who refused to listen; the future of our world is counting on it.