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April 20, 2024

Storylines: Bring back the balance

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

♦ Budgeram means story in Bundjalung language.

Belle Arnold

There was a time when humans were content with living in harmony with nature, our struggles were elemental and intricately connected to our survival.

We could not count the stars in the sky or the leaves on the tree, yet we understood the way they moved in relation to us and the natural world around us.  Our connection to the natural world was essential, and multi-faceted, we understood the connection between flowers and migration and the cycles in the sky country. 

Every living thing is connected, and in Aboriginal culture related through totemic and kinship connections.

Now, in a time of unprecedented luxury and abundance, humanity faces a tidal wave of mental unwellness. Humans have unravelled the mysteries, counted all the leaves and stars and named ourselves masters over the natural world.

Giant of the natural world. Photo David Lowe.

Destroying the magic of the natural world

We have destroyed the magic of the natural world and created new myths – like Santa, to give us something to believe in.  I know many people participate in the Christmas season out of the necessity to have something special in contemporary culture, some ritual or magic that gives our lives some purpose or meaning. It’s time that we reclaim this in a way that isn’t more excessive consumption.

Our obsession with consumption has hit the tipping point and unless we find a new way to fill our eternal void of need our planet will be uninhabitable. We all know this. Yet we continue to participate in this race of mass consumption, as we watch our mental health, and the mental health of those around us decline. Is it possible there is a link?

Living in harmony with earth country and sky country

For more than 60,000 years Aboriginal people living in harmony with earth country and sky country, observed an intricate balance, a deep respect and understanding of the world around us and our place in it. We took only what we needed, shared with our families and communities and were responsible for the other living creatures we co-existed with.

The recent deluge of rain was a reminder of the fragility of this balance and the potential for catastrophe when this balance is not maintained. 

Scientists describe the effects of La Niña and El Nino which are evident in the ongoing extreme weather incidents that have become more common, due to the effects of global warming. Indigenous peoples world-wide have been warning of this for decades. 

As a young activist I was driven to create change, to protect the planet from the onslaught of environmental devastation – I remember clearly a wise old aunty saying to me ‘bub – the mother will speak for herself’.  Unfortunately, it feels like we have reached that point – where the voices of all the custodians have been ignored and the earth is now speaking for herself.

Recent storm events

And the rain came. Photo Tree Faerie.

I was devastated to read Nickolla Clark’s account of the damage to the midden system in Byron Bay due to the recent storm events. 

Byron Shire, like most of Australia, is rich with cultural heritage and sites from when life had a deeper connection to the natural world. Most Byron residents would be aware of the tireless efforts of the Bundjalung people, including the locals Arakwal people, in protecting country and preserving these sites, and stories of a time when humans worked to preserve a balance between anthropogenic mass and biomass, between earth and sky country. 

Image Tumisu – Pixabay

Our society’s current obsession with consumption has brought a new wave of dispossession as the cost of living here is far out of reach for most people, and yet the spirit of country is what people are attracted to. It’s time to place greater value on survival and the balance of the natural world. Respect the custodians who have cared for country for so long, starting right here in Byron Bay.

Belle Arnold. Photo Tree Faerie.


Belle Arnold is a local dubay of Wakka Wakka descent. ‘Living off country I pay my respect to the Arakwal people and the wider Bundjalung people of this land,’ says Belle. 

Belle has worked in community for 15 years, Belle is an artist, dancer and weaver working across many other mediums. Belle is passionate about community and has committed to empowering women and young people through cultural practice. She has worked in government, arts and community organisation to advocate for improved access to land, culture and services. Belle is currently employed at Desert Pea Media as the Projects Manager.


More Storylines articles

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As 26 January approaches our communities are once more gripped by polarised views of the date.


If not now then when?

In 1901, when Australia’s Constitution was originally determined, there was no direct mention of First Nations people. In fact, it was designed to deliberately exclude us.


The moment we can change the course of history

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Storylines – The Voice, it’s time

For generations, First Nations people have consistently and persistently pointed to self-determination as being essential in making meaningful difference in the lives of our people.


Storylines – Upcycle the festive season

♦ Budgeram means story in Bundjalung language. Here comes Christmas, the festive season; the year is drawing to a close and we put the icing on the year with the biggest celebration in our collective calendar. For many it’s a problematic time...


Storylines – Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-operative

♦ Budgeram means story in Bundjalung language. Thirty-five years ago, ten Aboriginal artists gathered to create an Aboriginal Artists Co-operative in Sydney, the place of first point of contact with the English in 1788, when Captain Cook proclaimed that the land was...


Storylines – Belonging places

Belonging is a feeling of security and support we experience when we experience a sense of acceptance and inclusion in community. Belonging is a sense of being connected to something greater


Storylines – Working with mob

Many are asking ‘who do I talk to?’ if I want to work with mob? Taking the time to yarn, engage and build relationships is key.


Storylines – The Voice of the voiceless

My grandfather would often tell me a story. A story about a community. This community was self-sufficient, self-reliant, and self-determining of their own lives.


Storylines – Returning to old ways of housing

Kinship and Country obligations for mob resulted in bands, or groups of families living together and sharing everyday life, prior to colonisation.


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  1. There was a time before the slaughter of Aborigines and the bloodletting
    and the decimation of the tribes, the humen psyche then was content to live with nature and its laws
    But then along came Santa Claus and he told us how to live in his presence without a Voice in parliament.

  2. This is a great viewpoint and credible argument given the greed exhibited by humans in control. Many, many kind and loving people are willing to forego the material excess and decadence that we are told we want my media and marketing manipulaters. If “they” were like “us” things would be very different. The point to remember is that “they” will never turn back from the “false knowledge” ruining our beautiful earthly home. Divine intervention will be the only thing that can make a change needed. Sad but true.


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