As part of NAIDOC at NCIE 2020, we hosted a ‘Caring for Country’ Online Panel Discussion on Wednesday 11 November.

The panel was a chance to reflect on and engage with this year’s NAIDOC theme, ‘Always Was, Always Will Be’.

Moderated by NCIE’s Strategic Projects Adviser, Indu Balachandran, the panel included Skye Trudgett, Blak Impact Lead at NCIE, Wiradjuri woman, Associate Professor Megan Williams and NCIE CEO Clare McHugh.

The panellists shared their thoughts and views on sustainability and how it interacts with First Nations understanding of Caring for Country.

All of our excellent panellists discussed how they keep connected to culture and explored concepts of People, Place and Practice.

Skye said her perspective of Caring for Country is caring for the things that nurture her.

“It’s a place where we get to live out who we are in our physical form, but also what gives back to us to help us be strong in spirit,” she explained.

“It’s our job to care for that, to look after that and keep giving back so it exists, not just for us, but everyone beyond us.”

Skye said COVID-19 restrictions earlier this year had impacted on People, Place, Practice and how First Nations people Care for Country.

“COVID had this huge impact on not allowing you to go and be in the places that keep you healthy, sustain your spirit and make you feel strong. That wasn’t just country, it was places like NCIE,” she said.

“I then thought further to that… what are the really good things we’ve done as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to move past that? Because we are sustainable in ourselves and who we are…. and that was things like virtual meetings to connect.”

Clare said you can’t talk about Caring for Country without talking about who we are as people and how we practice culture.

“Everything we do is linked back to country,” she said.

“When I speak to my children’s connection to country, I very much speak to my partner, who has been lucky enough to have been raised very strong in culture and strong in cultural practices.”

Clare said she has observed that children raised with a strong sense of identity, culture and belonging, are set for life.

“They do better and strive. They’re stronger and have much more pride in their identity and a sense of belonging, compared to those who maybe don’t have the opportunity to grow up with that strong connection to country, culture and identity,” she said.

In order to sustain being a proud First Nations woman, Megan said she has to keep herself well each and every day.

“I have to keep my own self in check, that’s my physical health, ego and rage. But also, being a mother, another layer is me being well in the family unit so those teenagers get an arguably better start than what I did,” she said.

It was a remarkable discussion that gave our panellists the opportunity to speak on what keeps them sustainable as First Nations women and mothers.

This event was live-streamed across our Youtube Live channel – check it out below.

Big thanks to City of Sydney for supporting NAIDOC at NCIE 2020.