The Acknowledging Country Writing Workshop aims to facilitate opportunities for profound connection to place and history with which to ground your words, enrich your understanding, and to grow your ongoing connections to Country.
The focus is an exploration of the new Australian ritual of Acknowledging Country that for the last decade has taken place at the start of public gatherings. This ritual has emerged at a vital cultural moment, with the growing awareness and acceptance of Australia’s violent conquest history, and greater understanding of the ongoing impacts of colonial culture on both Aboriginal and settler cultures.
“Country” is an Aboriginal English word meaning both the visible and invisible world around us; people, plants, animals, landforms, weather systems, the animate spirit that infuses us all, the stories and the web of relationships between us. To acknowledge Country, then, is to acknowledge an alive, sensing world. The implications of this are enormous, with the potential to disrupt the de-animated worldview that underpins the colonial paradigm. How might we fruitfully and respectfully engage with this other way of knowing, and learn the responsibilities and connections of deep belonging?
This work is grounded in learning from Aboriginal and Indigenous people, including inspiration and encouragement from Tyson Yunkaporta, Yin Paradies, Jack Mitchell, Miriam Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann, Ian Hunter, Joy Murphy Wandin and Dave Wandin.
This course pays the rent.
The workshop in more detail:
This workshop has emerged after a long slow percolation of two things said to me, more than once, by Aboriginal people. The first, a question – what happened to you that you would do this to us? The second, a statement – we’re ok, it’s you lot that have the problems – go and work on yourselves.
I have felt the importance and truth of these words, and have sought to create a space where we can, in groups, sincerely and deeply investigate them. We do this through the help and guidance of the eldership of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous thinkers whose work I have collated.
This work is not instead of, or meaning to supplant, the wisdom and guidance of local Aboriginal people – that is an irreplaceable and essential part of our learning, and a gift to honour. My work is offered in the hope that, through deepening our historical and contextual understanding and emotionally processing the grief of our history, we have more space to allow new learning. That we may better understand the greatness of the gift that is a Welcome to Country, so as to offer a more heartfelt Acknowledgement of the gift.
What, also, does it mean to feel we have a deep spiritual connection with land that has been stolen? How do we reconcile with this moral confusion? These are some of the questions that we let ourselves be guided by, on the way to a more just and compassionate Australian culture.
Returning to the Roots: The European tradition: including Goethe, Jung, and the deep and hidden history of faerie, otherwise known as nature connection.
Re-enchantment: tradition and the power of the spoken word.
Rooting in Ancient Earth: The Aboriginal tradition. The Gift, the meaning of Country, Dreaming and Dadirri, (Deep Listening).
Speaking your words: a whole group sharing of experiences and acknowledgements.
This course was first developed for the Jung Society of Melbourne, and so the thinking of Carl Jung underpins the approach. As both therapist and cultural agent Jung held space for difficult questions and saw the deeply personal as necessary for cultural and political transformation. He brought awareness of the archetypal realm (pattern thinking) and of Anima Mundi – the soulfulness and animacy of earth.
In the spirit of Jungian processes, the investigation will take a depth psychological approach to researching and creating your own Acknowledgement of Country. We will be using a tool Jung developed, Active Imagination, to sense and dialogue with the idea of Country. You will be invited to deeply, personally, and somatically engage in the practice of Acknowledging Country through invocation – speaking aloud to animate Country, and listening for words that feel true and real.