• That’s not country – This is country

  • As a general introduction to First Nation across Australia I figured the best place to start is with Aboriginal systems and structures. In order to make sense out of this, I want to start with the terms “Country” as this is at the heart of all FN cultures Australia wide.

    By the end of this article you will:

    1. Know what the word “country” means to both "older" and "newer" Aussies 

    2.  Describe the Aboriginal land you are currently living and or working on  

    3. Feel more comfortable to check out how your local First Nation mob pronounces the name of their country

    Seven States and Territories

    Most people are familiar with this map

    Recent Australian history describes how we've shifted from seven states and territories to become federated as a nation in 1901.

    In the eyes of many across the world, Australia is seen as a very young country.

    Aboriginal Countries Across Australia

    In the eyes of the descendants of multiple First Nation cultures across Australia is 65,000+ years. 

    In the First Nation space the word ‘Country’ is used to refer to a person’s place of birth, the place of a person’s family, and/ or the place of a person’s Dreaming, which may be different to their place of birth.

    Country is usually defined by geographical or natural boundaries such as rivers, hills, ridges, horizon, waterways and evening the skies.

    A person’s birthplace links them to numerous aspects of their culture, including country, people, culture, kinship system, environments, and the Dreaming.

    From a space ship

    If we were to imagine for a moment, we were in a spaceship circling the planet earth, flying past Australia we would see sailed past Australia we would see a continent girt-by-seas. 

    What’s missing is boundaries. There are none.

    What we realise is that all of the boundaries we operate by on a day-to-day basis are man-made.

    Such as the seven states and territories. Modern boundaries are often “man” made.

    View of Australia from a space ship

    Ancient boundaries in the Aboriginal world are natural parts of the landscape and waterscape.

    I have lived in the Blue Mountains in NSW, Australia for over 3 decades, on Darug country.

    Darug country is situated on the right-hand side of the Great Western Highway travelling west from Sydney to Katoomba. On the left-hand side of the same highway is Gundungurra.

    The Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains, NSW

    We could be seduced into thinking that the boundary is actually the highway. However, the highway is man-made and built on the ridgeline.

    The ridgeline is the natural boundary. As previously mentioned what’s fascinating about FN boundaries is that they are all naturally occurring in the environment, that is rivers, reefs, coastlines, as well trees, mounds, rocks and so much more.

    All of these boundaries have meanings and linkages with the dreaming. The local mob have their own stories that relate to each landmark or formation with their meanings of cultures, connections and country.

    Check out my video in a previous post that describes the multiple meanings of country.

    1.  Find two or three Aboriginal people you work, are friends within your local community and ask them what is the correct way to pronounce the name of the mob in your local community . .. and practice it their way

    2. Remember there might be several different ways to say the same name depending on their location within their country

    3. Post your learning or insights below and perhaps comment on other people’s learnings