Indigenous knowledges key to ‘Healing Country’

6 July 2021

‘Healing Country’ – the official theme of this year’s NAIDOC Week celebrations (4–11 July), calls for Australians to continue to seek greater protections for land, water, sacred sites and cultural heritage from exploitation, desecration, and destruction.

During NAIDOC Week, Australians are invited to recognise and celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ knowledges and understandings of Country as a vital part of Australia's national heritage.

UQ researchers are working with Indigenous peoples and have utilised Indigenous knowledges to study how and why Indigenous communities managed Australia’s cycle of drought and flood in inland waterways before European settlement, and how floodplain management changed after settlement.

The study team includes Dr Duncan Keenan-Jones, from the School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry, Indigenous Honorary Research Fellow Malcolm Connolly (Archaeology), from UQ's School of Social Science, as well as Mithaka Aboriginal Corporation collaborators Shawnee and Joshua Gorringe, who are Mithaka Traditional Owners.

Research led by Associate Professor Michael Westaway, from the School of Social Science, is also investigating how people lived on the Channel Country in Western Queensland. The research is a collaboration that brings together knowledge of today’s Mithaka traditional owners, ethnohistorical accounts – primarily from Alice Duncan Kemp – and new archaeological research.

That archaeological research includes analysis of plant and animal remains recovered from ancient settlements, which are the remains of meals prepared and consumed in the past. 

“Fine-grained archaeological work is giving us new insights into how people used this country for food before and during European colonisation, and will allow us to evaluate current ideas about how the Channel Country may have seen some form of agriculture,” Associate Professor Westaway says.

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