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Four things we can learn from indigenous cultures

Ashleigh Green |  18 December 2012

Today, there are 370 million indigenous people in the world. Indigenous people make up 5 per cent of the world's population, yet they constitute 15 per cent of the world's poor. Caritas Australia's Walk as One campaign is currently raising awareness of this alarming statistic, and by getting involved in this campaign, we can do something about it.

Walk as One campaign coordinator Alexandra Engel says, 'There are many issues related to indigenous poverty around the world that are similar to Australia.'

Here are four things to learn from Indigenous cultures.

  1. The importance of caring for the environment
    One of the most unique aspects of Australian Indigenous cultures is their relationship with the land. For these Indigenous cultures, the land is imbued with the stories of ancestors and it is at the core of their spirituality. When we incorporate Indigenous views of the land into the way we care for the environment, we can become better stewards of the land.
  2. Preservation of language and history
    It is estimated that while indigenous peoples make up 5 per cent of the world population, they speak more than 4000 of the 7000 languages spoken in the world today. Indigenous languages carry within them a rich history, and through these languages we can understand how indigenous people viewed the world thousands of years ago. In Australia today, the loss of languages is of real concern.
  3. The value of community
    For Australian Indigenous people, community is closely tied to place. Aboriginal poet Lionel Fogarty said, 'Homeland communities hold the language, the culture.' In our globalised world we can lose sight of the importance of being connected to our local communities. Indigenous cultures teach us the importance of remembering where we come from.
  4. Knowledge of traditional medicine and agricultural practices
    The traditional knowledge of indigenous cultures is an invaluable resource in many sectors, such as medicine and agriculture. Indigenous Australians, for example, used bush medicines for tens of thousands of years. The Bundjalung people from the coast of New South Wales treated wounds by crushing tea-tree leaves and applying the paste to wounds.

Four things we can do for our Indigenous brothers and sisters

  1. Educate yourself. Learn about the Indigenous people from your local area. Get the Indigenous perspective on news from Indigenous newspapers, and borrow a book about Indigenous culture from the library.
  2. Educate others. Share Caritas Australia's Walk as One film with family and friends.
  3. Act. Sign Caritas Australia's Walk as One Petition to tell your local MP that Indigenous justice matters to you.
  4. Put some dates in your diary.
    7 - 14 July 2013: NAIDOC Week - A celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and an opportunity to recognise the contributions of Indigenous Australians in various fields.
    9 August 2013: The International Day of the World's Indigenous People.


Topic tags: indigenousaustralians, australianidentity, religiousandculturaldiversity, buildingpeace

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