The NAIDOC theme for 2021 is ‘Heal Country’. It ‘calls for stronger measures to recognise, protect, and maintain all aspects of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and heritage’.
Country is a key part of our identity and culture as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and helps us connect to our spirituality, traditions, Ancestors and our Lore.
Our people have cared for Country since time immemorial. We learnt how to live in harmony with Country, taking what we needed for our own survival but also giving back and living sustainably so that the land and waterways could continue to thrive. We must ensure that we continue to protect Country and maintain it for the many generations to come.
As a community we have been calling on the government to better protect Country and our sacred sites that rest upon it but our land and waters continue to be destroyed and polluted.
You can read more about the decision behind this year’s theme here.
Image: NAIDOC 2021 Resources.
Cultural heritage are places that hold great significance to our people and our culture such as areas tied to our Dreaming, our spirituality, our customs and traditions and even locations of first contact between our mobs and other people. For the most part these sites are under the jurisdiction of state and territory governments unless they are culturally significant to all of Australia.
There are a few Acts currently in place that aim to help in the protection of these important areas.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 allows the Commonwealth government to get involved in the requests to protect important areas that are under threat if the state and territory governments are not doing enough.
The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 set up the Commonwealth and the National Heritage Lists which include the Indigenous sites among others and sets out penalties for anyone who disturbs or damages these sites.
In Victoria the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 covers most of the heritage sites in Victoria. This acts helped to establish many different bodies involved in cultural heritage including the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council, which ‘provides a state-wide voice for Aboriginal people and advises the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs on cultural heritage management’ and Registered Aboriginal Parties, which allows ‘Aboriginal groups with connections to country to be involved in cultural heritage decision making’.
Indigenous Protected Areas and Land Management
Indigenous Protected Areas and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander land management practices are helping to maintain our lands and waterways and prevent major environmental events such as wildfires.
Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs)
IPAs are areas of land and water that are protected by law and managed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups in agreement with the Australian government. As of 2020 there were 78 dedicated IPAs covering about 74,693,991 hectares of land.
IPAs are an important part of maintaining and protecting our countries National Reserve System and helps to provide jobs for mob through ranger programs in each state.
Traditional Land Management
Our people have cared for and protected this land for a very long time, unfortunately invasion and colonisation saw many of our traditional land management practices taken away and Country suffered as a result. Fortunately many of these practices are now being reintroduced into today’s land management organisations with extremely positive effects!
Indigenous ranger programs are launching across the country and cultural burns are also being introduced in many areas to help prevent wildfires and increase biodiversity.
Below you can read about some of the different initiatives the states and territories are taking to protect and heal country.
New South Wales
- First Nations people campaign for more say in Murray-Darling water management, ABC News
- Minyumai Land Holding Aboriginal Corporation, Firestick Burning.
- Tiwi Marine Rangers, Tiwi Land Council
- Fighting carbon with fire, Arnhem Land, Australia
- Girringun Aboriginal rangers conduct first women-only controlled burn to protect mahogany glider, ABC News
- Partnership with Traditional Owners is Caring for County, Rainforest Foundation
- Nantawarrina, the first IPA in Australia, indigenous.gov.au
- Kuti Co - Strengthening the Ngarrindjeri Nation through their pipi harvest enterprise, Jawun
- Ancient Aboriginal burning techniques return to Cape Barren Island to regenerate the land, ABC News
- Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre Rangers, National Indigenous Australians Agency
- After 160 years, Aboriginal cultural burning returns to Coranderrk Station, ABC News
- Land Management Unit, Winda-Mara Aboriginal Corporation
- Ngurrara Rangers first female chopper crew care for country, National Indigenous Times
- New recordings of critically endangered night parrots music to ears of Kimberley rangers, scientists, ABC News
- 10 Deserts Project, An Indigenous land management collaboration across Australia’s desert country.
- Indigenous heritage laws, Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment
- Indigenous heritage, Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment
- Indigenous Protected Areas, Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment
- Aboriginal heritage legislation, Aboriginal Victoria
- Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs), National Indigenous Australians Agency
- Heal Country 2021 theme, NAIDOC