• Drew Roberts (Drew Roberts)Source: Drew Roberts
This Science Week Drew Roberts is focusing on teaching kids about food, medicine and how to walk on Country in a mindful and respectful way.
Rae Johnston

21 Aug 2020 - 10:09 AM  UPDATED 21 Aug 2020 - 10:14 AM

When NITV News news spoke to Drew Roberts, he was on Country collecting food for the Bush Tucker Experience for Science Week. 

“I'm out here, because the Black Wattle's out at the moment, and the stars are in a certain position - so I'm able to go and get certain fish,” said Mr Roberts. “I like to collect the day before or get them to do it on the day."

The Science Week mob aren’t the only ones getting a feed, though. 

“My aunties and my cousins have basically dictated that I go and get it for them as well,” Mr Roberts laughed. 

His company, Shared Knowledge, was set up to do exactly what the name implies. 

“There was knowledge that was passed on to me from my uncles and my aunties. A lot of the family members weren't able to continue that practice in that culture like me, learning how to speak language and walking on country. Because I was born later, I had that opportunity to be able to do that,” said Mr Roberts. 

“And that's why the company is called Shared Knowledge because bubby, you gain this knowledge and you pass this knowledge on to 10 people. And those 10 people pass that knowledge on to another 10 people each.

“So you'd be the drop that'll create ripples, to become a tidal wave, to get knowledges out there. We weren't allowed to do it. Therefore, you should be doing it.”

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Shared Knowledge has been in partnership with the Royal Botanic Gardens for the last five years running the “Bush Foods Experience” - teaching locals and tourists how to walk through Country in a respectful and mindful way.

In the beginning, Mr Roberts was running one program. Today, his company runs around 15 different programs at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Centennial Park, and the Australian Botanic Gardens.

During the experience, Mr Roberts teaches participants “all of the different responsibilities that we have as First Nations people - trying to teach a little bit about culture - but more around the bush foods and medicine.”

Mr Roberts said that events like Science Week are also an opportunity to teach sustainability. 

“Our cultures have been practising sustainability for generations upon generations. And it always comes back down to common sense, and how to walk through a Country in a respectful and a responsible way.”

For this year’s Science Week, Mr Roberts is focusing on the younger - and future - generations. Not just the kids, but their teachers as well, so it can be embedded within the curriculum of New South Wales, and used as a resource. It’s not just for the formal education system, though. 

“It’s for whoever wants to teach these jarjums, these kids, how to identify when they walk on Country, be respectful when they walk on Country. And teach them that - because I come from a matriarchal nation - that women will never ever do anything for one reason or one purpose,” said Mr Roberts. 

“Teaching them that tree might look pretty, but it also feeds you, and it will also heal you, and will also look after you. So it's teaching them to take the blinkers off and not be so isolated, I guess, in the way they walk on Country.”

“I was taught that when we walk on country, you’re meant to be recognising that you're one grain of sand in the universe. And so this is part of that way of being able to teach them how to do that.”

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Speaking of the universe, Mr Roberts spoke of the strong connection between bush foods and the night sky. Not the stars, but the dark places. 

“It's the dark stuff that will tell me when how to go and get a feed, when to go and get a feed, when to practice ceremony, when to do all of that kind of stuff. I guess common sense would be the best way of thinking about it.”

So it comes as no surprise that Mr Roberts is keen to check out another event for Science Week, Gamilaraay Astrophysicist Karlie Noon’s tour of the winter night sky, from a First Nations perspective. 

“She is amazing, and how she actually explains it - because her coming from a completely different nation to me - she's going to utilise the stars in a different way to me,” said Mr Roberts.

“She's going to go through and do the dark emu style, telling them to go and collect certain birds, and certain eggs, and certain animals - and those animals don't exist on my country. It's a way of making that connection with the Songlines. She's really lovely in the way that she delivers it.”

We were interrupted by a flurry of bird calls. 

“Sorry,” said Mr Roberts, “The birds that connect to that tree are telling me it's time to go fishing.”

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