Travel journal: learning on country

Indigenous rangers and students in Kakadu.

Indigenous rangers and students in Kakadu. Photo: Greg Williams

Students taking part in a new ANU Research School of Biology program have enjoyed an eye-opening experience in the Top End, learning about Indigenous culture, Aboriginal knowledge of biodiversity and the success of traditional land management, Madeleine Symon reports.

I am currently studying Health Science and I hope to transition into medicine. I come from a regional town, so my first-hand experience in the difficulties of accessing medical services has instilled in me a personal desire to help bring medical skills and services to rural populations. It is my passion to help deliver equal and equitable access to medical services across Australia.

One day I hope to work with Indigenous peoples in remote locations, and the Indigenous Cultures and the Environment course at Charles Darwin University (CDU) allowed me to gain insight into Indigenous culture, the different ways of knowing and knowledge production, as well as develop a deeper understanding of the natural environment. It also provided insight into the importance of environmental sciences and natural resource management.

We were in Darwin for a week – we spent three days at CDU and then four days camping at Kakadu National Park. Once everyone was settled into the on-campus accommodation at CDU, we headed to the Mindil Beach Markets. Our first point of call – food! There were so many food vendors at the markets, all different styles and cuisines to suit everybody’s taste. Once everybody had gotten some food (accompanied with Darwin’s famous mango ice-cream) we headed to the beach, where we sat and marvelled over one of Darwin’s spectacular sunsets.

Greg Williams, from the College of Indigenous Futures, Arts and Society at CDU, ran the course. I think everyone on the trip would agree that Greg did such an amazing job at planning such an interesting and engaging course. For three days Greg taught us about the different types of knowledge systems, natural and cultural resource management and Indigenous knowledge-making characteristics.

Richard Fejo Jr, a Larrakia man and one of the Traditional Owners for the Darwin Region, welcomed us and talked to us about Larrakia land and people. We spent time talking with Bininj Kunwok people, learned some Kunwinku language and about the Bininj kinship system.

Not only did this course allow me to explore Darwin and its beautiful national park Kakadu, it also gave me insight into Indigenous cultures and how important it is to understand the different types of knowledge systems.

After three days at CDU, it was time to pack up our belongings and go bush for four days!We were lucky enough to experience the Indigenous Australian Njanjma Rangers call to their ancestors, asking for permission if non-Indigenous people could enter their sacred land. This was such a great experience that allowed our group to experience Indigenous knowledge-making characteristics.

Njanjma Ranger Ursula Badari with students in Arnhem Land

Njanjma Ranger Ursula Badari recounts an important creation story to students at a site in Arnhem Land, near Gunbalanyah, Northern Territory. Photo: Greg Williams

Camping really does bring people together, as everyone on the course formed such great friendships and our days were constantly filled with laughter. The highlight of the trip was definitely hiking through the national park guided by Indigenous Rangers and seeing the Indigenous rock art.

It was an incredible experience to explore Kakadu, and I will cherish the experience and memories forever. Walking through the beautiful landscape and taking in the national park’s beauty was surreal. Camping allowed us to take what

This course was directly relevant to my future passions and career goals as I have gained knowledge and experience on Indigenous cultures and knowledge-making, which has enabled me to develop a deeper understanding about their knowledge system as well as their culture and the natural environment.

This was such a memorable trip. The course gave me a new outlook on life and how we perceive knowledge.

I was blown away at how much I loved my time in Darwin!

Find out more about applying for the Indigenous Culture and Knowledge exchange program as part of your ANU degree.

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