Caring for Country and Caring for Water programs have tremendous value for connecting Aboriginal people to their communities, particularly for those youth who may live in cities and feel disconnected from their history and traditions. An interview with Bradley Moggridge touched on this philosophy and this article describes it and talks about the impact it is having in Australia and internationally.
Many First Nations Peoples are heavily involved in caring for country as it is a cultural obligation to do so. It plays a large role in managing the country’s environment (Indigenous Protected Areas) and natural resources, as well as its cultural heritage. In caring for water, Indigenous Australians also use traditional knowledge to keep water resources healthy.
Caring for country and caring for water offer many benefits, from having a strong environmental impact to creating a better sense of connection and well-being for young people, who will be the water protectors of the future.
“People on country, they are going to be happy and healthy. They are part of these industries, growing industries that can look after Australia and make Australia look good.” Brad Moggridge, Aborginal water expert
The benefits of Caring for Country programs
These programs help connect young people to Elders, and other cultural knowledge holders, protecting this important knowledge. A lot of traditional knowledge has been lost, so it is vital that existing knowledge is passed down to youth, who can keep these important traditions alive, and in place within their world.
Urban youth are also able to connect to country, giving a firsthand view of why natural resource management and environmental protection is so important to their future, and the future of the later generations. Some urban youth in Australia, as with youth living in the rest of the Asia Pacific, may feel a disconnect from their environmental resources, or not understand its importance in their lives. By caring for country and caring for water they may forge an intimate connection and see how their own actions and decisions impact the world. These youth may then go on in their adult lives with a true understanding of the importance of caring for country, and by extension, caring for water.
Impacts of caring for country
The health of the land is directly impacted by caring for country. Many traditional knowledge holders say that the land has to be cared for by its people to be in optimal health, noting, “if you look after the country, the country will look after you.” When the country is in good shape, its people are in good shape, for many reasons.
In caring for country, natural resources and cultural heritage are connected and inseparable. This means that the actions of caring for country and caring for water keep cultural sharing and knowledge alive, supporting that sharing from Elders to youth. All involved gain the benefit of involvement in their community, something that boosts health and self-esteem and carries environmental benefits as well. Caring for Country programs also offer a financial incentive, employing young people in a manner that is rewarding and reliable.
Caring for country on a global scale
The benefits and impact of programs like this are not limited to Australia alone. Asia Pacific countries can also gain socio-economic, cultural, environmental, and health advantages by implementing similar programs, that focus on the health and wellbeing of both water resources, and the people who use them. Traditional knowledge, like Caring for Country and Caring for Water programs, will guide the way to healthy, stable people, and healthy, stable natural resources.