AllGrid and Dice Australia had an amazing time at our event “Illuminating the Environmental: Healing from the Inside Out”. After the the night was kicked off with keynote addresses from the world-renowned Canadian environmentalist Dr David Suzuki and the Lord Mayor of Sydney Clover Moore, our incredible panelists each one of whom is a climate change champion and indigenous leader in their own right. They were Josh Gilbert, Amelia Telford, Nathan Blacklock, Olga Havnen, Kirstie Parker, and Elijah Douglas, and they lead us through a night of illuminating conversation.

The incredible Rod Gonzales, was the MC and Facilitator of the panel. As CEO of NANA Australia, a corporation dedicated to being an effective bridge between two worlds – indigenous and non-indigenous; business and traditional, he was more then qualified for the role. Drawing from David Suzuki’s speech, Rod’s first question was on the interconnectedness of mental health and environment. What is the indigenous approach to connection, mental health, and sustainability?

Nathan started off, telling of the difficulty of dealing with these issues and the immense importance of sourcing energy and strength from the land, both spiritually and emotionally. He said that the thing that helps him most is to go out on country, and sit by a river. He tries to teach this to the young people that he mentors; how to go out and release the unhappy thoughts and histories that are following them. The panel took the thread further reiterating the importance of connecting back with culture. The younger people discussed the importance of this moment in time, where there are so many young indigenous people searching for who they are. Stressing that without a connection to culture they would miss out on the song lines that are there birthright. The elders followed up, reinforcing that these connections could only take place where the land was healthy.

Illuminating the EnviroMENTAL: Healing from the inside out - Sydney 2016. Ph: www.organicphoto.com.au

Olga put forward the idea that there is an awareness of land and culture that is bound up in what it means to be an Indigenous person. Research was brought up that the communities that suffer the least from mental health issues are ones where there was a strong sense of identity, a strong sense of community, autonomy and self governance, connection to culture, and indigenous language. The argument was put forward that impeding political and power structures needed to be changed to reflect what has been shown to be best for indigenous communities. Amelia stated that climate change was the big umbrella issue that could tie these threads together and unite people. Going on to say that we had already lost too much culture and environment already and that it was now time for young people to think deeply about the stories we tell ourselves, stand up, take responsibility, and lead the way to a brighter future.

Rods next question began by reflecting that when we want to create a healthier planet we turn to indigenous people because they are the ones who have best maintained it. How are we to share the body of indigenous knowledge? The conversation first moved to the people really being affected by the changes, and that to access indigenous knowledge we need to not just listen to, but work with the people with the knowledge. It was put forward that indigenous knowledge had really suffered from being transferred into the western framework, that the knowledge was there but there had to be a space for the song line and story lines to be heard. Kirsty brought up the fact that in all this we should be careful not to lose our ‘own-ness’. There are Indigenous people as whole, but there are clans and individuals as well, and this should not be lost in the wider river. The importance of respect when dealing with indigenous cultures was emphasised along with the suggestion that we need to come together past the systems pulling us apart.

The conversation returned once more to the interconnectedness that indigenous knowledge fundamentally works from. Healthy minds are intrinsically linked to healthy communities which is intrinsically linked to a healthy culture which is intrinsically linked to a healthy land. Indigenous knowledge always works from this point, rather then the linear pathways of the western world. It was brought up that though there were still many issues indigenous knowledge was being incorporated into western thinking, particularly in respect to tending to the land.

It was time for a final summation of the night from the panelists. Nathan emphasised drawing from the past to strengthen the future. Elijah highlighted the importance of supporting Indigenous people without controlling them. Olga built upon that by suggesting that there needed to be enablers and facilitators not just ‘doers’ so as to allow Indigenous people to become agents of their own change, and that this entire panel was fundamentally about finding balance. Josh reinforced the idea that Indigenous knowledge had all the answers but needed the resources and support. Kirstie said that the goal was to find a way to live joyfully. And Amelia finished the night with a gratitude and a call to stand up and take responsibility.

Wow. What an incredible night of ideas. We here at all grid were truely blown away by the thought and feeling that went into the discussion. We are very grateful for everyone that came along to make the night such a success. We look forward to catching you again next year. You can watch the full video here. If you would like to support this campaign please go to our donation crowd-funding platform, all proceeds go to the NSW based “Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health.” We would very much appreciate it if you could share this campaign through your social media platforms.

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