Storylines: Unite and act

♦ Budgeram means story in Bundjalung language.

This article is made possible by the support of Ninbella Gallery.

Bronwyn Bancroft

I acknowledge the Arakwal people, whose lands I live and work in.

What are we looking for in 2020?

Clever Crow (2018). Image Dr Bronwyn Bancroft.

I am a Bundjalung woman. I am an artist. Through my journey as an artist, I have spent many hours at my desk in the studio. It does not assist my overactive mind, but it does give me time to think.

At this particular point in time, I am troubled – troubled by this country, Australia, that is destroying our lifeline, an essential component of all of our existences – Mother Earth.

To witness documentaries that illustrate an escalation of destruction, ripping the world apart, one mine, one forest, one home, one person at a time, is soul destroying.

Watching huge machines excavating sacred water lines, rivers being plundered by water thieves, the country burning, the rivers dying, the fish kills and the enormous loss of animal brothers and sisters and ecosystems is terrifying. This is what is troubling me – and what can be done to address the mess?

Eagle Inside (2015). Image Dr Bronwyn Bancroft.

Time to learn respect

Is it possible for all of us to rise and meet the challenges that are now being presented to us all? These challenges are predominantly being delivered by inept governments that continue to ignore the presence of the wailing mother, whose screams pierce the air and whose anger and frustration at the ongoing disrespect is being experienced by all of us.

Everyone I speak to has a story to tell about connected environmental calamities, or weather events, but not ‘climate change’ according to the thought leaders running the country at the moment. One of the epic failures of our recent environmental history, where fires ravaged the country, is that they did not receive the forensic planning or attention that they deserved. The result was that the lack of understanding, let alone planning, led to the immense loss of life – of people, wildlife, homes and ecosystems – this is a tragedy that could have been mitigated.

Planning, funding, resources and insightful thinking would have decreased the extent of the damage that these fires brought to a drought beaten country. Planning, thinking, acting on behalf of the land. How hard can that be?

Bundjalung Birthing (2018). Image Dr Bronwyn Bancroft.

Uniting for the future

How can we make changes across the country? How do we all unite across our cultural, spiritual, sexual and racial identities and origins to mount a battle of wills?

We can, and will, make change by addressing our singular contribution to diminishing our environmental impact. We can introduce change in larger human ecosystems, such as workplaces, schools, universities, big business – just about everything really. We can also demand change.

We vote for politicians who are public servants – and I believe should be delivering a contemporary framework for ecological recovery and a plan to tackle climate change right now. These are simple requests from communities, within communities, that are hurting from the increasing impacts of changing climate conditions across the country. We need qualified visionaries to create new paradigms of existence, working with nature – not against it.

What can we do about it all?

One of the most powerful vehicles for change that I have witnessed is the movie 2040 by Damon Gameau. The meetings with innovators for climate change delivered expertise that can be adapted by the viewer (I recommend it).

We can be innovators of our own design, and challenge ourselves daily to minimise waste, recycle, care for country and stand up for our waterways, our trees and our animals – the seen and the unseen – and of course, the victims of climate change.

We can also constantly bombard the politicians who represent our electorate, and those holding positions on a federal level, as well as the opposition with emails and letters. We can stop all political donations, and fund elections from our own money so that we influence the direction of our country and it stops being the super-wealthy dictating the future, as is currently taking place. We can mobilise for change on the lack of climate action by governments by protesting, by sharing concerns on media platforms and by learning as much as we can, and teaching others. We can help each other.

Falling Through Time (2014). Image Dr Bronwyn Bancroft.

One of the most unifying experiences I was involved in was walking across the Harbour Bridge in 1988, pregnant with my second child, Ella. Australians walked with us, from all sections of society, and lots of diverse communities, to support Aboriginal sovereignty.

There is much to be learnt from Elders in our Aboriginal communities, and sharing knowledge develops respect for that knowledge. Our people know the country they live in. My Uncle Pat, who died in 2015 at age 94, knew every part of the land and the water where he was born – he even knew where the gold was! We should be listening and learning.

Time to listen. Time to act. Time to unite.

Dr Bronwyn Bancroft. Photo Sharon Hickey.


Dr Bronwyn Bancroft is a proud Bundjalung Woman and Artist. Bronwyn has been exhibiting nationally and internationally for over three decades.

Bronwyn has a diverse Artistic practice including public art commissions and imagery design for private commission. Bronwyn illustrated her first children’s book, The Fat and Juicy Place in 1992. Since then, Bronwyn has authored and/or illustrated 41 children’s books.

Bronwyn was the Australian finalist for the Ezra Jack Keats Award for Excellence in Children’s Book Illustration in 1994.

In 2010 Bronwyn received the Dromkeen Medal for her contribution to Australian Literature and in 2016 was the Australian Finalist for the Hans Christian Andersen Award (Illustrator). Bronwyn is currently nominated for the 2020 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award.

Bronwyn holds board positions with Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (Director) and the Commonwealth Bank Indigenous Advisory Council. Bronwyn has been a volunteer senior strategist at Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-operative since 2009.

Bronwyn has a Diploma of Visual Arts; two Masters degrees from the University of Sydney, one in Studio Practice and the other in Visual Art. Bronwyn was awarded her Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in 2018.

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5 responses to “Storylines: Unite and act”

  1. James McKenzie says:

    Bundjalung is just what white linguists called the language, Yugambeh in QLD, all the money has been wasted for two fake nations in the one language group.

  2. Anne says:

    Beautiful, beautiful artwork Bronwyn! Oh why oh why can’t we have artwork like ‘Clever Crow’ or ‘Bundjalung Birthing’ as our wall murals in Latine Lane Byron rather than the industrial looking, unmoving, uninspiring, unsympathetic harsh lines painted there without a jot of public consultation. The right words and brushstrokes, inspire. Thank you Bronwyn. Council please take note!

  3. Ginga says:

    Lovely article.. thank you!
    Divine artwork.. beautiful story telling through picture. The colors & textures are incredible..

    Thank you

    Love & blessings

  4. Ill fares the land says:

    Good article. But… One of the biggest problems we face is not our government. It is “us”. I don’t (necessarily) mean those who are part of the groundswell calling for change and who are , or are becoming more conscious of our choices and how to minimise our “ecological footprint”. But that’s not widespread yet and I see indicators that we are still a way off achieving that goal.

    For example, take a sample of 100 people. If those people went out to buy a new car tomorrow, they would be buying an SUV or a dual-cab ute. Some might genuinely need vehicles of a particular configuration, but many do not. These vehicles use more fuel and cause more pollution – are we going to give them up easily – no way in this world. Are out governments going to take steps to make the owners of such vehicles pay higher costs (they should be taxed as “light trucks” not as “cars”). And in fact the fringe benefits tax laws still allow dual-cab utes to be salary packaged with a 100% exemption from fringe benefits tax (the same as getting a 100% deduction for personal mileage).

    What most of the “we” really want is for the government to ensure they can access even more power and keep the price down. “We” want to buy ever bigger fridges and TV’s and build ever bigger houses on ever small blocks to accommodate them. “We” want to fly across the world on ever more exitoc holidays and travel the seas on heavily polluting cruise ships. “We” are also extolled to buy more and marketers are more and more adept at transforming our “wants” into “needs”. We crave more stuff and bigger cars and houses because they are a visible measure of our “superiority”. “We” clamour for more and more stuff, because no matter how much “we” have, our feelings of inferiority never really go away and our desperation for superiority (over whom exactly is a perennial question) never leaves.

    The results of our mass consumption are clear now for us all to see (we can deny the evidence, but the truth is inescapable), but for us to change the way we live is a far more intractable problem and a problem with no simple solution. The police plead with motorists to drive safely, but we ignore them – so we are entirely capable of knowing what we should do and choosing not to do it.

  5. Ill fares the land says:

    Re my previous comment. I meant to add that if a sample of 100 people went out tomorrow to buy a new car, current figures indicate that around 40% or more would opt for an SUV or dual cab ute.

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