The Land We Share

When developing units of work on this particular topic, the following learnings need to be considered:

  • The earliest evidence of human habitation in the Melbourne region is found in sites at Keilor on the Maribyrnong River, with artefacts found in clays that suggest a minimum age of 36,000 years. Skeletal remains date back 13,000 years.
  • Indigenous people's interaction with the land was based on an understanding of both flora and fauna as life forms which were intimately related to human life. An awareness of the essential integration of humans with the land could be summed up as a deep sense of oneness with the land.
  • Indigenous people's spiritual relationship with the land ensured that they were conservationists.
  • In the pre-contact era Indigenous people had spiritual responsibilities for and economic rights over defined areas. Groups of Indigenous people moved about within their own territories or 'country' according to leadership decisions, kinship, the seasonal availability of resources, religious obligations to participate in ceremonial life, and defined trade routes.
  • Indigenous peoples living in many diverse environments across Victoria had developed effective and economical technologies for sustaining their needs and their environment.
  • Although resources were clearly exploited by Indigenous people in this country, and although strategies such as fire burning were used in ways that altered the vegetation of various regions of the continent, there was still a respect of the land manifest in patterns of resource use. The use of the land by Indigenous people featured practices that would lead to sustainability.
  • The skills performed by Indigenous people before contact with Europeans extended far beyond the essentials of hunting and gathering. Indigenous people were also builders, constructing simple shelters and more complex huts made from stone; engineers, designing and constructing elaborate fish traps; traders along networks of trading routes throughout Australia; botanists, knowing the medical and other properties of many plants; farmers, ensuring food supplies by scattering seeds, reburying roots and firestick burning of grasslands; as well as carvers, painters, dancers, musicians and storytellers.
  • Indigenous Australians made use of their knowledgte, skills and various technologies to extract a very comfortable living from the land, particularly in southern Australia.
  • Loss of power and control over the land for which Indigenous peoples were responsible, and refusal by Europeans to learn from them, resulted in devastation and breakdown in vital eco-systems.
  • Respect for and identification with the land, its plants and animals - always an integral part of Indigenous cultures - is something many more Australians are beginning to share.
  • In many land management schemes, Indigenous advice is now being sought, and Indigenous peoples are regaining custodial control and management of land.
  • Not all Koorie people today have a natural environmental expertise, largely because of their long-term dispossession and dislocation. Generally there are people in each community who are able to pass on knowledge about the natural world that was once a part of everyday life.
  • Despite massive changes in the environment and in lifestyles due to urbanisation, industrialisation and agricultural innovation, Koorie people's beliefs about and approaches to land management and land care can continue to contribute to a healthier, sustainable environment for all Australians.