• Professor Jakelin Troy, Director of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research, University of Sydney (Supplied)Source: Supplied
COMMENT | Listening to the story of the Queen on her 90th birthday I was suddenly struck with the realisation that her sense of belonging to Country struck a chord with me. The way in which she spoke about her selfless bond to her Country and its people resonates with how we as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people feel about Country and community. She puts Country and her people before self. 'I can give you my heart and my devotion to these old islands' she told the Commonwealth in her 1957 Christmas televised broadcast.
By
Jakelin Troy

5 Jul 2016 - 1:23 PM  UPDATED 5 Jul 2016 - 1:23 PM

This is exactly how we as Indigenous Australians feel about our Countries and our peoples. The land to which we belong 'owns' us and we are devoted to our Countrymen and women and all the people we have brought into our communities. Country is 'self', without Country we are nothing.

As I watched this woman, so devoted to her Country, the revelation came to me that the English who invaded our Countries and 'colonised' our lives, our languages, our traditions, our legal systems, all that made us who we are as Aboriginal people could feel the same way about Country that we do.

Indeed the Queen of England has an Indigenous soul an Indigenous relationship to her Country.

How can it be that this sovereign who has such a clear understanding of connection to Country still deny us our sovereignty and our rights as sovereign peoples?

The idea of NAIDOC Week was drawn from a call by William Cooper, a Yorta Yorta man in 1937, to all Aboriginal people to hold a 'day of  mourning' to recognise the loss of our rights to land and self government. In this NAIDOC week we celebrate the songlines or dreaming tracks that make the connections between all our peoples and our Countries. The songlines are shared histories and knowledges that track our ancestral creators and connect the living to the spirit world and all those who have gone before us.

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“This country holds our story forever like an archive. Travelling through country, the songs reveal themselves. They are embedded in country.” - Francis Jupurrurla Kelly

The word 'Songlines' is an English term for the way in which knowledge is transmitted between our peoples across all of what is now called Australia. Our people used epic 'songs' to tell how our Countries and peoples were created as the ancestral spirits travelled and interacted with each other and created the landscape in which we live. 

We will never be truly 'colonised' while ever we keep these songlines open and we can rehearse the knowledge of our peoples and our Countries that these songs repeat across thousands of generations. The songlines make sense of Country for all Australians because they hold core knowledge about the land and how to care for it.

This knowledge is now so important to all of us as we face catastrophic climate change. Where these songlines are diminished because people have been forced to abandon their languages and cultural practices all Australians have lost a treasury of knowledge about this Country as a whole.

My Country is snow and ice, the alpine region of south eastern NSW. We are Ngarigu people who knew how to live in the Snowy Mountains, who could exist all year round even above the snowline.

We lived on rich fatty animals that stored body fat to get through the cold winters and high protein Bogong Moths that sustained people from across the Monaro district.

We were a small group of people in what is marginal country. But we were known to people in Central Australia, the songlines told our story as theirs was told to us. Recently in Alice Springs an Elder, hearing of where I'm from, said 'ah, ice mob', just as I was thinking he is desert mob. We also talk about saltwater and freshwater mobs.

Our stories, histories and knowledge are still shared and still travel the modern songlines. Our songlines now tell political stories and keep us connected in our struggles for recognition and sovereignty. There is an old saying that what happens in Sydney and is known to the Gadigal will be known by Noongars in Perth. We say 'telegraph, telephone, tell a Koori'.

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Professor Jakelin Troy is Director of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research at the University of Sydney and a proud Ngarigu woman whose country is the Snowy Mountains of NSW.