2 July 2022


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples-led conservation is key to regenerating Australian nature, and will grow stronger with the proper support. WWF-Australia’s Indigenous Engagement team members Rosie Goslett-King, Ben Kitchener and Cliff Cobbo have come together with Girringun Aboriginal Corporation’s Sonya Takau to suggest 5 ways that everyday Aussies can support or contribute to the advancement of traditional land management, and help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples conservation leaders working tirelessly to restore healthy Country.

1. Learn about the true history of Australia

Hinchinbrook Lookout
Hinchinbrook Lookout © Woody Spark / WWF-Australia

Rosie, Ben, Cliff and Sonya all agree that one of the key ways adult Australians can support mob caring on Country is to have the curiosity to question what was taught at school and “learn the true history” of the land we share and call home.

“There's at least 80,000 years of history to acknowledge and learn from prior to that date that we call ‘discovery’”, WWF-Australia’s Women Rangers Environmental Network Coordinator Rosie Goslett-King emphasises.

As Girringun Aboriginal Corporation’s Sonya Takau puts it, the path towards learning and understanding is a long one we must travel together. “The appropriate way of treating the true history of this country has only just started. There's been like 200 odd years where the true history of Australia has not been taught”.

“My mum and dad knew about the true history, but they wouldn’t disclose that information to us until we were at an age where we were able to accept it because it was pretty terrible what happened, you know?” Sonya says. 

Learning true history is how Australians can better understand First Peoples' connection to Country. For Sonya, it was times in her family’s past where respect and the desire to collaborate were shown that mattered in such dark moments.

“My mum's parents, my dad's parents, were all removed off of their traditional lands”, Sonya shares. "Professor Robert Dickson learned a lot about the Jirrbal language and wrote the book Searching for Aboriginal Languages. And his greatest teacher was my grandmother Chloe Grant. And he writes about her in that book."

Sonya’s grandmother Chloe Grant as featured in the book Searching for Aboriginal Languages (shared with permission from Sonya Takau)

Sonya’s grandmother Chloe Grant as featured in the book Searching for Aboriginal Languages (shared with permission from Sonya Takau)

“Professor Dixon was up here in 1960s North Queensland talking to our old people. He writes in that book that all of our people were displaced in 1960. That's like nearly just over 50 years ago. That's not long ago when you look at it.”

For anyone looking to learn more about the “true history” of Australia, here are some great resources as a starting point:

Sonya has some very valuable advice. “The best way you can be informed is to do the research yourself, and you can start by talking to Aboriginal People. Communicate with us, then we can point you to it. The other thing you have to realise is that a lot of the history written about us is not written by us. We’re oral historians.”

2. Listen and engage with First Nations storytelling

Reminiscing about her memories of sharing food and stories with her Italian neighbours many years ago, Sonya agrees with the profound suggestion - sharing culture is a rewarding experience. “I think a major reason why Australia is turning towards First Peoples is because it is a multicultural society. Many have fled here wanting to start a bright new future. Nowadays, many new Australians don't like the way First Nations people have historically been treated and are still being treated. They want change.”

As Rosie points out, “There are lots of ways to bridge the Indigenous culture knowledge gap, listen and then engage in First Nations storytelling, both fiction and non-fiction. We’ve got stories, books, TV, podcasts, painters. We’ve got everything. Listen to us tell our history.”

Here are some fantastic First Nations storytelling resources:

3. Show your support with local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples community events and conservation organisations

Ben Kitchener, Indigenous Fire Coordinator at WWF-Australia believes everyone can show their support not just at an Australia-wide level, but also at a local level. “You can engage by attending local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community events and things like that. It’s something you can do as often as you want”. 

Rosie advises those keen to help local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community and conservation organisations should approach with the goal to support rather than lead. There are opportunities to lend a hand to the extraordinary Aboriginal-led community and conservation projects already underway. “Rallying behind and supporting community is true allyship and solidarity”, Rosie says.

Find out more through these resources:

4. Be respectful when on Country

There are so many simple and effective ways you can show your respect when on Country. You can:

“You can look after Country on your own level”, Rosie explains. “Whether you have a huge property or you have some pot plants on a verandah in Sydney, you can plant for birds and bees. You can plant native and believe it or not, those seeds spread far into the bush.”

Rosie Goslett King

“Some weeds, a major problem on Country, started off as life as hedges in urban areas, species like privet”, Rosie explains. "So, doing things like removing the seeds from your agapanthus has an impact. It ends up in the bush!”

Agapanthus Africanus (Wiki Creative Commons)
Agapanthus Africanus © Wiki Creative Commons)

If you want to make your garden more ‘Healthy Country Friendly’, there’s help available. “Most councils have a list on their website telling you what plants are native to the local area”, Rosie says. “So you can go straight to the council website of your area and see what you should plant”

5. Support the expansion of Indigenous Protected Areas and traditional land management practices like cultural fire

There are simple ways every nature-loving Aussie can support the expansion of Indigenous Protected Areas and traditional land management practices like cultural fire. For instance, you can support making Country healthy part of your workplace’s Reconciliation Action Plan.

As WWF-Australia’s Indigenous Engagement Manager Cliff Cobbo suggests, “If people and businesses are looking for ways to decarbonise and lessen their carbon footprint, they could look at Indigenous climate change products”. For example, Karrkad Kanjdji Trust is partnering with the Adjumarllarl Rangers and Arnhem Land Fire Abatement (NT) Limited to establish a new carbon abatement area. This project will lead to a reduction in greenhouse gases being emitted from late dry season fires and, in doing so, create Australian carbon credit units.

One of the easiest ways you can support the expansion of Indigenous Protected Areas and traditional land management practices like cultural fire is to learn more about it. You’ll find more information here:

Sonya encourages all Australians to get out there and strengthen their own connection to nature. 

"When people go out on Country, they're going somewhere where they wanna relax and have fun as a family or a picnic or something like that. And connect to nature. The saying that my dad always raised me with to encourage me to connect to nature is “let the Bush talk to you”. So just stop, listen. Listen to what nature's telling you."

Sonya Takau