Hi I’m Maureen (some people call me Mo). I’m a freshman majoring in psychology. I’m from Marquette, Michigan which is a beautiful town in the Upper Peninsula right on Lake Superior. Some of my hobbies include painting, drawing, hiking, and playing basketball.
I’m excited to learn how people practice sustainability in Australia and see how it compares to the United States. I’m also interested in how sustainable practices and interaction with nature affect mental health. I look forward to seeing all of the Australian plants and animals!
While abroad, I will be looking to see whether Australia can be a sustainable nation with the current social divide between Aborigines and European Australians. “Sustainability is the ability to meet the needs of the current generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. The environment is the primary but not the only consideration within sustainability; it is important to also consider human welfare. Therefore, a sustainable society (following the strong sustainability model) is one that protects natural resources while ensuring social justice and economic well-being for all” (University of Maryland Office of Sustainability, 2019). The social aspect of sustainability is oftentimes overlooked but it is an imperative part of the strong sustainability model.
I am curious to witness the relationship between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous while in Australia and I look forward to learning about the different cultures. European Australians can learn valuable sustainable practices from the Aboriginals because the Indigenous lived sustainable for thousands of years before the Europeans invaded. Aboriginals lived with the land and primarily hunted and gathered. However, some argue that the first Australians had complex systems of agriculture that were too advanced to be labeled as hunting and gathering (Rethinking Indigenous Australia’s agricultural past, 2014). The indigenous people of Australia were the first farmers to touch the land and had extensive knowledge of managing native plants and animals for thousands of years (Rethinking Indigenous Australia’s agricultural past, 2014).
Aboriginals are at a huge disadvantage to European Australians because of stolen generations, food rations, and mistreatment after colonization. The “Stolen Generation” was created when the Europeans colonized Australia. Aboriginals were exiled from their lands and children were taken away from their families to be “educated”. The children taken from their families created “The Stolen Generation” (Ballyn, 2010). There is violence in Aboriginal communities that is directly influenced by factors such as alcohol and drug use, mental health issues, and childhood experience of violence. However, researchers suggest that there are deeper reasons for the poor health of Aboriginals that resulted from the effects of colonization, loss of land, erosion of language and culture, the loss of cultural and spiritual identity, forced removal of children, and racism and discrimination (Indigenous disadvantage in Australia, 2019).
I would like to look more in depth at the relationship between food, Aborigines, and European Australians and gather enough information to decide if it is possible for Australia to be a sustainable nation with the current status of the Aboriginals.
In Australia, I gathered an extensive amount of information to help better my understanding of the relationship between Aboriginal Australians and non-Aboriginal Australians. I had the opportunity to speak with a mother and daughter who were part of the “Stolen Generation”. I was able to see the effects of Stolen Generations and witness the differences between Aboriginals depending on the region. At the Mossman Dreamtime Gorge Walk I discovered more about Aboriginals in Queensland, Australia and the Aboriginal I spoke with was very passionate about his culture and still practiced Indigenous traditions. With both groups of Aboriginals I could feel the frustration and sadness for what the European Australians did to their people.
At the smoking ceremony, I also spoke with Aboriginals about Indigenous not being included in the Australian constitution. They claimed they were reaching out to the government to have Indigenous Australians written into the constitution as equals to non-indigenous Australians, but have had no luck. There is an apparent lack of respect towards Indigenous in Australia and the Australian government must make amends if they wish to be a sustainable nation. Social equity is important for a society to be sustainable because it is a community effort for a nation to live sustainable. If there is animosity between groups of people, then they will not be able to come together for the well-being of the planet and the future generations.
At multiple sites visits in Australia, I noticed the use of growing Indigenous plants. Rainforest Bounty is a company that uses Indigenous plants and agriculture techniques to produce food. Rainforest Bounty uses agriculture practices that mimic how plants in the rainforest grow, so they only use rainwater to nourish the food. Similarly, at the home of an Australian woman named Kylie Trebble, there was strategic planning for where to place plants in the garden to rely entirely on rainwater. To maximize biodiversity, Kylie created a garden that is comprised of 80 percent Indigenous plants. It took Kylie years of experience to master her gardening style and her practices reminded me of Indigenous agriculture. Another site that was similar to Kylie’s home was the Syntropic farm. At the Syntropic farm, the farmers strategically planted so they could rely on rainwater and felt strongly about listening to the earth rather than conquer it. The Syntropic farming techniques reminded me of Aboriginal agriculture because they helped their plants a little, but primarily let mother nature work its own course. These site visits showed me that farmers in Australia are using base ideologies and techniques the Aboriginals used.
Over the course of the month abroad, I found that non-Indigenous Australians don’t give enough credit to the people who lived peacefully with the land thousands of years before they invaded. The Europeans disturbed Aboriginal traditions and most importantly their deep relationship with Australian land. If the Australian government works diligently to help the Aboriginals rekindle their past, it will improve mental health and overall well-being in the Indigenous communities and hopefully the non-Indigenous can follow the Indigenous way and return again to the earth as well.
The Australian government is placing money into Aboriginal schools and there are organizations like Apunipima (an organization that combats unhealthy lifestyles in Aboriginal communities) that are attempting to prevent the unhealthy lifestyle that sprouted in Aboriginal communities after colonization, however, much more has to be done.
From my research in country, I can conclude that the Australian government should invest more time and money into creating equality for Aboriginals and focus on creating sustainable programs for Indigenous that allow them to use similar practices to what their ancestors used. For example, focusing on growing Indigenous plants in urban areas and advocating the consumption of kangaroo meat over beef. This will tie Aboriginals back to their ancestor’s traditions and give them a sense of power in the community, all while helping Australia become sustainable. Everyone in Australia needs to work together if they wish to achieve complete sustainability; you can’t have a large group of people not be actively involved.
Ballyn, S. (2010). Lives in Migration: Rupture and Continuity 16 2. The British Invasion of Australia. Convicts: Exile and Dislocation. Retrieved July 13, 2019, from http://www.ub.edu/dpfilsa/2ballyn.pdf
Indigenous disadvantage in Australia. (n.d.). Retrieved July 15, 2019, fromhttps://australianstogether.org.au/discover/the-wound/indigenous-disadvantage-in-australia/
Mossman Dreamtime Gorge Walk. (2019, June 1). Lecture presented in Queensland, Australia, Yungaburra.
Ngaut Ngaut Cliff Walk and Talk. (2019, May 27). Lecture presented in South
Australia, Australia, Adelaide.
Rainforest Bounty. (2019, June 4). Lecture presented in Queensland, Australia, Yungaburra.
Rethinking Indigenous Australia’s agricultural past. (2014, May 21). Retrieved from https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/archived/bushtelegraph/rethinking-indigenous-australias-agricultural-past/5452454
Smoking Ceremony. (2019, June 1). Lecture presented in Queensland, Australia, Yungaburra.
Syntropic Farming Talk and Farm Visit. (2019, June 2). Lecture presented in Queensland, Australia, Yungaburra.
Trebble, K. (May). Kylie Trebble Home Visit. Lecture presented in Australia.
University of Maryland Office of Sustainability. (n.d.). Retrieved July 13, 2019, from https://sustainability.umd.edu/how-would-you-define-environmental-sustainability