Unlocking the Heart of the Land: National Gathering Unites First Nations Wisdom for a Resilient Future

Tuesday 22 August, 2023: The Biri Bulmba Budang National Custodians of Country Gathering (the Gathering) starts today in Cairns with over 600 delegates from across Australia. The inaugural event, hosted by First Nations people and led by the Firesticks Alliance, aims to foster collaboration between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians to work together to address the pressing need for ecological restoration, enhanced biodiversity and community resilience. With the intensifying impacts of a changing climate and the threats presented by the return of El Nino, understanding and adopting Cultural land management practices from Australia’s First Nations peoples is a proactive strategy to mitigate the impact of natural disasters and extreme weather, including bushfires, droughts and floods.

Gathered under the iridescent sky, an amalgamation of souls have come together for the week – custodians of the soil, protectors of biodiversity and stewards of resources. This crossroads of minds, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, propels us towards solutions that forge a path where harmony and sustainability intertwine.

Fostering a sense of unity, First Nations people and non-Indigenous Australians are coming together to share knowledge in areas of agriculture, conservation and natural resource management. The collaborative platform is exploring best practice and innovation, sharing practical information and stories, and creating partnerships to support First Nations engagement while transferring knowledge and practice. The event offers a space for communities to forge and strengthen connections invigorating cultural stewardship of the land.

Over 40 speakers will address topics such as innovation for contemporary land and sea management, biodiversity, threatened species management and best practice agriculture. Special guests include ABC TV presenter and Landcare champion Costa Georgiadis; former politician and Olympian gold medallist Nova Peris; together with Firesticks co-founder Victor Steffensen, Chair of the Aboriginal Carbon Fund, Barry Hunter, and over 41 Traditional Owners and Indigenous Ranger groups.

Firesticks Alliance co-founder and expert Cultural fire practitioner Victor Steffensen emphasises the holistic nature of Indigenous knowledge as its significance in a contemporary context, saying: “The National Custodians of Country Gathering will showcase the entire Indigenous knowledge system and its relevance to modern society. We want to show how rich our culture and practices are across science, conservation, agriculture, language and connecting with Country, and how these various knowledge systems can be holistically applied to ensure better outcomes for our communities, future generations and the world they are set to inherit.

“Indigenous knowledge-based solutions are nature-based solutions. Through this event, we want to show how we are all stronger together – Indigenous and non-Indigenous. Send that love out there!”

Recognising the collaborative spirit that defines landcare efforts, Landcare Australia chair Doug Humann AM acknowledges that while many landcare groups have long worked hand-in-hand with Traditional Owners and First Nations organisations, this event makes a pivotal step in our journey of shared responsibility with First Nations people.

“This important event will lead the way on how we can come together, walk together and work together with First Nations people to integrate Cultural land and sea management into landcare practices, conservation and sustainable agriculture,” commented Humann. “Beyond this, by integrating First Nations’ knowledge and management perspectives, our land and sea-scapes across Australia will benefit and our communities and future generations will be enriched,” he adds.

Quick Facts:

  • The Biri Bulmba Budang National Custodians of Country Gathering is taking place this week, ends Friday 25 August 2023 at Tjapukai (Djabugay) Cultural Park Cairns, Far North Queensland. Hosted by Wet Tropics Bama with Firesticks Alliance, the event is supported by Landcare Australia and the First Nations Landcare Working Group
  • 40 speakers from across Australia including local grassroots community groups
  • 600 delegates including Costa Georgiadis, Victor Steffensen, 41 Traditional Owners and Indigenous Ranger groups
  • Agriculture Workshop with Victor Steffensen will be recorded and available to watch via landcareaustralia.com.au

Main image: Victor Steffensen on Yirrakanji Country at Dungarra – Redden Island,

Photo Credit: Annette Ruzicka Photography

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