Journey to Olkola Country: post script

I wrote the Journey to Olkola Country blog post in September 2019, just as Queensland faced its first outbreak of major bushfires for the season. 

Punchbowl lagoon, on Olkola Country, Cape York

With summer (technically) months away and more than 60% of Queensland in drought at the time, there was no rain on the horizon. 

Only more days of above average heat and the threat of dry lightning strikes.

On Olkola Country

The summer climate change got all too real

The September fires were bad enough. Then came November, and things got a lot worse. 

First for Queensland and then as 2019 dragged to a close, for New South Wales, the ACT, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. 

Unprecedented bushfires. Almost half the east coast on fire. The world watching on in shock as entire towns were decimated and lives were lost. 

Most Australians have either been directly affected by the fires or know someone who has.

One of my close friends in Victoria was lucky her house was saved but she lost a cottage, outbuildings, livestock and suffered thousand of dollars damage to several parts of her property. 

Other friends suffered through horrendous heat and choking smoke in and around Canberra.

There are too many stories, too many horrible statistics, so I won’t repeat them here.

But the destruction of our land and our precious wildlife had me reflecting on my time on Olkola Country, and what the Olkola people are doing to care for the land and each other.

Grass trees on Olkola country, Cape York
Grass trees have a variety of traditional uses

The greatest land carers on earth

Aboriginal peoples have lived on the island continent we now call Australia for at least 60,000 years. In all that time they have cared for their country and their communities. They managed their land, creating — as Bill Gammage called it in his book of the same name — The Greatest Estate on Earth.

Australia’s First Nations peoples have built an amazing wealth of knowledge and understanding of the seasons, plants and trees, animals and waterways, using land management practices to respect the earth.

For more than 60,000 years the land supported the populations of the many nations who each had their own country on this vast continent.

In the less than 240 years since Captain Cook rocked up on the shores, the land has gone from loved and cared for to the brink of climate disaster.

Giving back to country

I believe some of the answers to tackling climate change worldwide can be found in the knowledge of First Nations peoples, both in Australia, the Pacific and elsewhere. 

Like on Olkola, where the Olkola people have a dream for their country.

They’re working hard to welcome all their families back to live on their traditional lands, working in the jobs they want, caring for their country as their ancestors have done for thousands upon thousands of years.

I hope with all my heart they succeed. 

And I hope, across Australia, our decision-makers are not too ignorant to listen to the First Nations peoples’ wisdom.

Bower bird nest, Olkola country
Bower bird nest with collection of treasures

Recovering from bushfires is a long process

There are many fundraising efforts across Australia for the 2019-2020 bushfires.

Help out where you can but be careful. Scammers are cashing in. 

This ABC news article has a list of legitimate charities.

Buzzfeed has also published an article for those who specifically want to support Indigenous communities affected by bushfire.

And if you’re interested in finding out more about the Olkola people and their work on country, visit the Olkola website.

Thank you for your support.