NAIDOC Week: Malgana woman Bianca McNeair says we all have a part to play in healing country
The sharing and embracing of Aboriginal knowledge is a vital part of healing country and communities, says Malgana woman Bianca McNeair.
A woman of many hats, Ms McNeair recently helped organise the National First Peoples Gathering on Climate Change in conjunction with CSIRO.
Held in Cairns in March, the gathering saw 120 traditional owners meet with climate scientists to discuss how ancient knowledge and methods could be applied to today’s climate challenges.
Ms McNeair said having these conversations gave her “hope for the future” of land, sea and culture conservation.
“As Aboriginal people, we have survived through ice ages and all sorts of changes in climate that can be dated back at least 80,000 years, so for us to be laying foundations for our next generations is something we are really passionate about,” she said.
One of the projects Ms McNeair said she was most passionate about was the restoration of seagrass in her traditional country of Gatharagudu (Shark Bay).
“Saltwater is my country and we are very connected to the water, so being able to plant a tree in the ocean and know that we are taking care of the saltwater is just a huge satisfaction for me,” she said.
“The first thing we get taught is the ocean belongs to the sharks... for us it was always about respecting the environment first and foremost.”
Ms McNeair also works as a cultural consultation co-ordinator for the Northern Agricultural Catchments Council, an organisation which runs the Midwest Aboriginal Ranger Program.
Healing country is not something we can do in isolation, it is a community effort.
“For me as a young person growing up and thinking about what I want to do when I got big, I never ever had imagined that I could be an Aboriginal ranger,” she said.
“For me now to be able to go to schools, go to different government departments and talk to them about how important Aboriginal knowledge is, it is an amazing step forward.”
The theme of this year’s NAIDOC Week has been Heal Country — something Ms McNeair says cannot be achieved if people do not work together.
“Healing country is not something we can do in isolation, it is a community effort,” she said. “Sometimes we do things without even realising we are healing, like just taking our kids out country for the weekend is not only healing us, it is healing country, too.”
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