Everything is Country

Wiradjuri man and geographer Associate Professor Michael-Shawn Fletcher explores how belonging to Country embeds us within the world around us and reveals the obligation we have to care for it

Steve Grimwade

Published 9 December 2020

Episode 94

I see Country as the world around us, what we live in, but also ourselves, says Associate Professor Michael-Shawn Fletcher, descendant of the Wiradjuri, Director of Research Capability at the Indigenous Knowledge Institute and Assistant Dean (Indigenous) in the Faculty of Science at the University of Melbourne.

“Country recognises the role and the obligations that people have in the world around them. It doesn’t abstract the world from ourselves, it actually embeds us within the world around us and reveals the kind of reciprocity or the obligation that we have to the world in caring for it and looking after it.

Associate Professor Michael-Shawn Fletcher explains that one of the things that Aboriginal people did was to maintain open landscapes with fire.

“To care for Country, but also to increase green pick for animals, to increase grains, and there are a whole suite of species that Aboriginal people used in this Country that depend on fire at some stage in their life cycle.”

“There are areas that were described and which my data shows that are now forested, be that rainforest in Tasmania, or eucalypt forest on the mainland, that were forest-free. They were grasslands under Aboriginal management,” he says.

He adds that the very biodiversity that we love and appreciate in this Country is the direct product of Aboriginal management.

“We need to look to the Country that we’re in and talk to the traditional owners. In the circumstance where there might not be the continuance of knowledge because colonisation was so effective, then you’ve just got to roll your sleeves up and experiment.”

Episode recorded: November 25, 2020.

Interviewer: Steve Grimwade.

Producer, audio engineer and editor: Chris Hatzis.

Co-producers: Silvi Vann-Wall and Dr Andi Horvath.

Banner: Getty Images

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