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February 6, 2023

Storylines: Growing hope

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♦ Budgeram means story in Bundjalung language.

Belle Budden

Hope is a fragile thing in 2021. With the current pandemic and the uncertainty in so many aspects of life, our hope is being shadowed by fear. It is profoundly affecting our humanity. Our community is being divided by the behaviours that once united us, our dissent and willingness to question and to fight to protect our freedom and others in our community. Our children are watching and they are learning from our example and their sense of hope is drowning in a sea of negativity and hedonism constantly flooding their worlds through social media.

In Aboriginal culture our elders are our links to our cultural past and our young people are our links to our future. The fragility of hope for the young generation is detrimental for a sense of safety and wellbeing required to create the solutions for navigating the contemporary world they will inherit. People need to feel safe to participate in community, cultural practice and creativity. Safety comes before bravery and bravery is the place that the innovative solutions come from.

Aboriginal people are relational people, when we meet we talk about who we are and where we are from to establish how we relate to one another. Our culture is based on relationships – relationships to country, to culture, and to community. Relationships within our tribal groups and with our neighbours were critical to care for country and ensure all life was cared for, constantly respecting the interconnectivity and interdependency of all life.

Artwork byr Belle Budden.

How do Aboriginal people find the time to grow hope in our young people, while protecting country against endless pressure from development and industry, while advocating for the needs of our under resourced community, while educating the broader community to restore equity to our people and while passing on our continued cultural practice and while we survive economically? How do we choose a priority? We have been dragged into the world of time frames, outcomes and outputs along with everyone else and the expense of our cultural integrity. We need time to reflect on the seasonal patterns of country, to propagate and plant out native bush tucker to supportr native birds and animals, to share the songs and ceremonies for the increase of our totems, and teach all this to our children. These are our cultural responsibilities.

Survival under colonisation has forced Aboriginal people to become focussed on ourselves as individuals undermining our cultural framework of caring and sharing for family and community. The pressure of walking two worlds, fulfilling our responsibilities to country, community, and culture while surviving economically has created a culture of being too busy to connect and show kindness and foster a sense of hope.

Today I stood on the wall in Brunswick Heads and was grateful to have the ocean to draw hope from. The increase in the whale population represents a hope that we can create change that will have lasting impact. Growing up, whales were on the brink of extinction. International cooperation and immense change has seen the population being restored. This morning I saw a pod of twenty dolphins cooperatively fishing, herding fish into a circle and sea eagles diving into the centre of the fish to share in the catch. Aboriginal people all along the coast were part of this inter-species cooperative approach to life. We know how to cooperate, we know how to be sustainable, and we know how to share.

It is a difficult time for our planet and people who live closely with it. We are fortunate to be living through a time where we are reaping the benefits of the seeds planted by our ancestors. The fight for the rights of Aboriginal people is starting to see some meaningful change, and this is most evident in the education sector. We have much still to achieve but there has never been a better time to be a solid ally and work alongside Aboriginal community to protect country, community and culture – especially through the justice system and Aboriginal housing sector. I am beginning to witness some serious change from individuals who are committing to change on a personal level. This is where change starts, through individuals working to affect change in their personal spheres of influence. Personal commitments to protect country or community with no immediate benefit to the self is what is needed to grow hope.


Belle Budden. Photo Tree Faerie.

Belle Budden 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.


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