NAIDOC 2021 — Heal Country

by Alex Andrews

Image Source: The 2021 National NAIDOC Poster, ‘Care for Country’ was designed by Gubbi Gubbi artist Maggie-Jean Douglas.

NAIDOC is a week to celebrate our culture, land and community. We are thiving and surviving in the face of 233 years of genocide. It’s also an opportunity for non-Indigenous people and allies to reorient from the dominant narrative and focus on First Nations justice, for people, land, seas and skies. This year’s theme is an invitation for all to deepen our connection to Country, to community, to justice and to truth, through eco-social co-liberation. Where action in both environmental and social ecosystems are understood as interconnected, and interdependent for liberation.

It is difficult to heal when the truths of our history — invasion, the frontier wars, slave labour, ongoing genocide of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people — are barely recognised, and an Australian identity has been formed and sustained by a collective amnesia.

In our human bodies, when we receive too much input, or trauma, for the nervous system to handle at once, the patterns of the experience move to the tissues of the body. They wait here until we are ready to process them.

What happens when Country receives too much input, or trauma (both ancestral and today), at once? I imagine that the patterns of this experience are moved to the tissues of the Earth’s body. That they lay resting in the soil, the trees, in the memory of water, until the Earth is given the space and attention to process and feel them. 

In order to heal it requires a pause from habitual human supremacy. It requires acknowledgement of truth and collective, and individual, connection to Country. 

With the guidance of Traditional Custodians, it is the responsibility of all people walking on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lands to connect to Country. This connection means moving beyond the individual desire to find belonging on Country as a non-Indigenous person, to desiring a reciprocal and truthful relationship to Country as community. 

As a guiding tool for connection, I return to what, American author and Blak feminist, adrienne maree brown calls ‘attention liberation’. To liberate our attention from the habitual, towards that which we want to relate to and connect with, for it is also in relationship that healing happens.  

What does it mean to turn our attention to the Indigenous Country we call home, and the other living beings who co-create the landscape we inhabit? Do you know which Country you are on right now? Do you speak its traditional name aloud? Do you know the stories of those whose land you now live or work on? 

What parts of Country, helped raise you? The waters, the mountains, the dry earth?

What does it mean to turn our attention towards Indigenous peoples stories, struggles, histories and justice movements?

What is your family’s colonial history? What truths are held and shared by the people and land on which you live? What is happening today that requires your attention for justice?

This year’s NAIDOC theme is Heal Country. When we turn our attention towards both ecological and social justice, collective liberation and healing is possible. When we pause to let the patterned truths in the landscapes, our communities and our own bodies come forth, healing is possible. And when we commit to action for justice for people, land, sea, sky and culture, healing can happen.

Where will you turn your attention this NAIDOC and beyond?

More about the author

Kirilly Dawn is a proud Barkindji woman, born on Dharug country and living on Bundjalung land. Passionate about women reclaiming and remembering the sovereignty of their bodies and births, Kirilly is a birth doula, an advocate for birthing on country and incorporates her love of dance, somatic movement and meditation into her work. Believing in the ancient power of storytelling, Kirilly is joined as a regular presenter & producer on the Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond podcast, with a vision to share more Indigenous women’s voices, stories and experiences of childbirth and maternity care in Australia.

You can follow her work on Instagram @indigenous.doulas and @kirillydawn and you can catch her podcast episodes at: 

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