Caring for Country –
Geographies of Co-existence in Gumbaynggirr Country:
This research project, led by Aunty Shaa Smith, aims to work with Gumbaynggirr people and Country, to build a better understanding of what Gumbaynggirr-led Caring for Country might look like, and how it might be practiced, today. The research is to be a collaboration between Gumbaynggirr people led by Aunty Shaa Smith with Neeyan Smith, with the University of Newcastle (Associate Professor Sarah Wright and Dr Paul Hodge), the Jaliigirr Biodiversity Alliance of NRM organisations, and Gumbaynggirr Country on the NSW mid-north coast. It has been funded by the Australian Research Council Linkage program over 5 years.
As Aunty Shaa explains:
We call our group Yandaarra, which is Gumbaynggirr for a group going together, shifting camp together. This is also the name for our research and our work together. We see Yandaarra, our research, as a re-creation story. It’s about remembering what was (what is) as part of this re-creating. This work is about honouring Elders and custodians past, present and future. Our guidance from them is so important; it’s timeless, relevant for ever. Stories don’t belong to one time but for all time. This story that we’re doing now, the research, is relevant for then and now and for the future.
Yandaarra aims to better understand what a Gumbaynggirr-led Caring for Country might look like today and collaboratively develop and trial some resources and protocols to help support NRM to attend deeply to Indigenous ideas of Country, and to Country itself. Yandaarra is created through acknowledgement of Gumbaynggirr Dreaming and its contribution to the world.
Ceremony is at the centre of Yandaarra because it is from a ceremony place that we can promote life and be co-creators. The ceremony that Aunty Shaa’s facilitation offers is a traditional practice of the Gumbaynggirr people, and this ceremony will have a contemporary approach that is relevant for now and for people from diverse backgrounds. This ceremony is about taking guests on a journey that will bring them together in a space that initiates creative learning of how to build creative relationships with self, community and country. These relationships will define how guests see themselves and the way they carry themselves in the way they live, work and study.
Ceremony is about taking people on a journey that will bring them into connection with each of their ancestors under the guidance and support of ‘the old fellas’ (Gumbaynggirr Ancestors) who are already holding the energy and place for each person that enters through Yandaarra.
The research has two major strands. The first focuses on working mostly with Gumbaynggirr people and Gumbaynggirr Country to discuss what a Gumbayngirr-led Caring for Country might look like. This will be the major focus of the first 1-2 years. It asks: What does it mean to Care for Country, from a Gumbaynggirr world-view, today?
The second phase will be to work with natural resource management professionals, recruited through the Jaliigirr Biodiversity Alliance, to better understand their existing relationships to Country and to invite them, as co-researchers, to embark on a process of reflection and change led by the research team as they engage with Gumbaynggirr perspectives through an in-depth series of workshops over three years. This process will be initiated in the second year of the project and will involve a small group of practitioners who would like to be involved in a series of workshops.
Key delivery partners:
Gumbaynggirr Country, University of Newcastle
ARC (Australian Research Council)
This project was supported under Australian Research Council’s Linkage Projects funding scheme.