If you can imagine the one family continuously occupying the same land for 40,000 years or more, using it not just to sustain life but as a place of reverence and worship, where every tree, rock and waterhole had significance, you will get some understanding of the importance of land to indigenous people.
If non-indigenous and indigenous young people come together to learn about each other’s cultures, to learn the real history of this country and acknowledge it, this will hopefully improve the way we all interact.
Whenever I wrestle with indigenous issues to which there are no simple solutions, I am drawn back to my own people in Cape York. Until fairly recent times in our 40,000-year history, we owned our land and had sovereignty over it. It was our economic, cultural and spiritual foundation. It was the alpha and omega of our existence. It defined us and shaped our identities. It was both our strength and our weakness – yes, a weakness because, as hunter-gatherer peoples, it was all we had. Without it we had nothing.