Sea Country Guardian messages

When finalised, these  8 messages from the research will guide what children learn through Sea Country Guardians. These form the content learned while doing activities. We need feedback about these messages.

Australia’s Indigenous peoples have survived two ice ages with their culture largely intact. As the climate changed, the culture and practices adapted as they will adapt in the future. Culture is important in connecting Indigenous peoples to the land. For young people, learning about country on country is essential to build the practical, spiritual and emotional connection to land and sea country that is necessary to act for a sustainable future. Caring for the Great Barrier Reef begins with caring for the country connected to the reef.

Celebration and use of language.

Older community members’ respect of language is strong. Such respect is shown through using language names, listening to and speaking languages and talking about language. Cultural identity often begins with language. Activities designed for young people need to celebrate language knowledge and use.

Learning laws and traditions

Extended family is central to the personal development and care of young people. Here values and personal skills are learnt. Traditional laws and practices govern the roles and responsibilities of families. Children need connection with many Elders for continuous lifelong learning. Activities designed for young people need to provide opportunity for them to spend time with Elders and learn from their families according to ancient and new laws and practices. Those laws and practices sustained sea country that protects the reef.

Developing and showing respect

Respect is a broad responsibility to honour all aspects of being Indigenous. It is shown through learning, honouring old laws and traditions and taking responsibility for actions. Respect is given and earned. It is the basis of a future where ancient ways and knowledge combine with new knowledge to meet new challenges. Activities designed for young people need to provide opportunity for children to develop and show respect for language, family, land, lore, law, and culture, now and in the future.

Knowing and practicing Law and Lore

Family and Elders teach lore and law as young people show readiness to learn. Children need to know how to access information and how it can be learned. Traditional laws govern cultural practices and guide what is learnt about land and sea country, how it is learnt and who can teach and learn. Learning through traditional law shows respect and sustains the group and culture. Traditional lore and law may be the most powerful way to sustain hunting.
Activities designed for young people need to provide opportunity to know and practice the law and lore of their clans and culture. Sustainable land and sea use is strongest when based on internalised Law and Lore.

Walking on country – getting to know yourself and where you belong

The land and sea connects generations across time within the stories (lore) and law of their nation. A person’s country is central to who they are and who connects to them though language, totems and traditions. Indigenous people need to be on country to best learn and be taught, this includes both land and sea country. Children learn how to behave on country and to experience country to grow respect and responsibility – to connect with country. Activities designed for young people need to enable them to connect to country, have powerful experiences on country and to learn their place in their culture.

Caring for country to know it and sustain it

Caring for country enables Indigenous people to know their land and sea country through its changing seasons. Caring for country provides a holistic way of seeing interrelations of plants and animals. It provides a way for Indigenous people to develop and practice skills. Walking and being on country enables Indigenous people to visit their scared spiritual places which are important to their culture and responsibilities as custodians of land and sea country. Activities designed for young people need to enable them to walk their country so they come to know, respect and conserve the interconnections and pass them to future generations.

Using resources wisely.

Caring for country is a long held cultural responsibility which determines how country is preserved and protected though fire management, sustainable hunting and “do not disturb” laws which govern the relationship between Indigenous people and their country. Changing environmental threats, new uses of land for tourism, fishing and other enterprises combined with declining resources require new ways to sustain the appropriate use of land and sea. For some, a cultural audit reminds people of old laws, stories and places and reinforces a determination to preserve them. For others, new lore and laws based on old traditions mixed with scientific information provides a future pathway. Young people need to know both so they can make decisions about preserving country and culture and be strong in both cultures to which they are exposed. When appropriate values and beliefs are strong, sustaining land and sea country is a responsibility handed down from the ancestors and must be passed on.

Look, Listen and Learn.

“Look, Listen and Learn” is how Indigenous people have learned in the past and how they expect young people to learn in the future. The right to learn from experts, elders and family is earned by demonstrating respect and a willingness to pitch in and share according to old rules. Elders and Traditional Owners believe time with young people on country creates the conditions for learning. They have high expectations that young people can successfully and responsibly learn on their country where they are reminded of the old ways and rules and are able to accept their future responsibilities and roles. Constant reinforcement, guided demonstrations, doing real hunting and other authentic activities on country while trying things for themselves are ways to help young people learn. Young people need to become life long learners in and of their country to preserve and care for it in the future.



Photos courtesy of the Conservation and Land Management class, Cooktown State School.