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June 19, 2024

Jagun Alliance – rebuilding Indigenous knowledge

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Bugam harvest. Photo supplied

Sustainability is intrinsic to Aboriginal cultural frameworks, all ways of being, knowing and doing. It’s about being in the right relationship with Country, and all the endemic species being in the right relationships, in the kinship Country for Country, Jagun.

For thousands of years Aboriginal people have been custodians of Country utilising cultural land management practices to help to keep this balance. Local Aboriginal organisation Jagun Alliance are working across the region to help to restore these cultural practices that have sustainability at their core.

Jagun Alliance are working to grow public awareness and recognition of the importance of Aboriginal custodians and land managers to care for and manage land and sea Country. They educate landowners, framers and other stakeholders about how they can be better custodians of the land they own.

Oliver Costello Executive Director of Jagun Alliance sharing stories. Photo Michele Lockwood

Building partnerships, Jagun Alliance are promoting investment in culturally informed natural resource management across the Northern Rivers region. They are implementing innovative projects to heal country through conservation and natural resource management. This process is informed by 60,000 years of knowledge and wisdom. Through building partnerships to benefit the care of Country, Jagun Alliance are aiming to achieve their vision for healthy Country.

Oliver Costello is the Executive Director of Jagun Alliance. Oli is a proud Bundjalung man from the Northern Rivers of NSW, and he has a diverse range of personal and professional expertise in culturally connected stewardship of Country. He is currently focused on First Nations knowledge and practice in caring for Country through regenerative cultural practices that support preparedness, recovery, and resilience in relation to fire, floods and storms. He has extensive experience working within the Indigenous land and sea management, conservation, and cultural heritage management sectors, and has been particularly interested in empowering Aboriginal perspectives on fire, threatened and culturally significant species.

‘What we do is revive our cultural land management, our practices of caring for Country. We bring people together to care for Country, support people who are committed to care for Country, and to work holistically with cultural practices to make Country well again,’ explained Oli.

‘Our people cared for Country for many thousands of years. Colonisation has had a huge impact on our cultural land management and our relationship with Country. We are working to build partnerships to bring people together to maintain these cultural practices, to care for Country.’

Oli explained that there is a lot of focus on disaster response and addressing climate change and Jagun Alliance are committed to this work and more. 

‘It’s about a holistic approach to caring for Country, to see ourselves as humans as being in relationship with Country, not separate from or bad for Country. We have to see ourselves, and other native species as being part of Country and listen to Country about what it needs.’

L to R – Jagun Alliance crew Kobi Stewart, Andrew Johnston and Marcus Ferguson preparing bugam (Black Beans). Photo Michele Lockwood

Jagun Alliance  are working with our communities, learning from our own old people to strengthen cultural land care practices that have existed for thousands of years, such as cultural fire management, and native food cultivation and preparation across South Eastern Australia.

‘There are different types of fire such as maintenance fire where Country is pretty healthy, and you burn it at the right time and then we are working with Country to burn itself.

‘When Country is sick it takes a long time to get it healthy again. We want to focus on our pathways and corridors and old camp sites to reconnect to these stories of Country. This is of physical benefit to the land but it also of spiritual benefit to our people as we are able to get back on Country and to reconnect with our stories,’ Oli shared.

Oli has worked extensively with Western land management systems and is committed to working to create change for Country. 

‘Most mainstream land management practices have created systems that are based on a Western model of economy and land management. We are working to engage with local landholders and stakeholders in the importance of cultural land management, especially fire.

‘Supporting farmers to learn better practices so that they have better outcomes for Country. We want to see the rivers and the soils healthy which will benefit farmers and all the stakeholders.’

Check out the full Sustainability 2024 at www.echo.net.au/sustainability-supplements.


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