Hi, thanks for visiting the references for the course Acknowledging Country: Listening to and Speaking your Place.
Below, I have gathered here background materials that are foundational to this course. But first, a summary:
We are all now familiar with this ritual, and the key requirements — to acknowledge the specific Aboriginal group who have irrevocable connection to the land you speak from, and to acknowledge their sovereignty and ongoing relationship. Many Aboriginal people also ask that, in an Acknowledgement, we find our own way to speak to the importance of justice and repair, and our commitment to work towards these ends.
And while all of this is essential, and can create a foundation for important and often powerful Acknowledgements, there’s so much more we can hold in our awareness, can cultivate in our presence, and perhaps find a way to speak to.
This work we are doing is done ‘on Country’ – an Aboriginal English word meaning the alive, animate systems of ecological interconnection and kinship. Co-becoming seeks to do with work ‘in’, ‘with’ Country — acknowledging, respecting, tending, courting this animacy, this intelligence. But we cannot expect to be able to easily, innocently access such knowledge.
We know that the venerable history of deep kinship and communication between peoples and the places we live includes the legacy of violence, colonisation and trauma. There is no level on which this can be ignored. I will quote again the resonant words of Rudolf Steiner – each step in spiritual development requires three steps in moral development. Our ability to allow space for the painful, complex, conflicting emotions of being here on stolen land is a doorway into more deeply knowing it, and loving it. And, perhaps, being trusted by it, by Country.
When we engage in the work of co-becoming, all of this is here in the room — as ghosts or spirits perhaps, or perhaps as bodies that unconsciously store and accumulate experience from many many generations. The point is not to try to make all of this conscious, but rather allowing space in our bodies to be present with the immensity, complexity and intelligence of feeling. With compassion and deep listening we seek to be present to the legacy — the the cultural achievement of Aboriginal Australia, the vast loss and pain, this confusing time of reckoning and re-membering.
To Acknowledge Country is, in its very nature, acknowledging animacy. And as a ritual, spoken aloud, it is addressing directly the more-than-human world. It is stating aloud to all that might be listening that we are seeking to come back into an ancient way of relating — talking with, rather than about, the world.
Some might think that to talk about animacy is a distraction from feeling the impact of the human story, the shattering and ongoing results of colonisation. This is a fair concern, given how in denial and anti-feeling our culture has been. But the intention is to pay the utmost respect to Aboriginal culture by taking seriously the importance, in their culture, of Country — of animate earth. The challenge is to speak in a way, with the appropriate depth, breadth and spaciousness, to allow room for all of this.
|Sometimes we’re faced with a sense of the impossibility of getting any of this work ‘right’ all the time in the face of ongoing trauma and injustice. The paradox we’re working with is allowing ourselves to be with this discomfort and, at the same time, relaxed enough to feel the grace of the more than human world. Which, in my way of understanding, is the only thing big and wise enough to guide us into different ways of knowing.|
Therefore, I hope this work might skill us for making cultural change that supports and resources Aboriginal people to access and lead from this space. Trauma and injustice create barriers for Aboriginal people that we all seek to dismantle. May this work increase our resilience and moral capacity in this space.
If all of this feels daunting, I want to say that some of the most beautiful Acknowledgements I’ve heard have come from a space of vulnerability, not-knowing and confusion — people being true to how all of this feels in them. It’s not about perfection, it’s about honesty, and cultivating the capacity to be present with the full range of emotions this ritual brings forth. There is no way to do it ‘wrong’ with such an intention.
Here is the paper Shadow Projection, Heart Wisdom and Aboriginal Culture, also available as a zoom video.
And here is the essay Bunjil, which gives the context for my conversation on Tyson Yunkaporta’s podcast The Other Others.
Here are references mentioned plus the work of a few special teachers.
The beautiful song Dhangala by Micheal Kennedy
The video and further information on Dadirri by Miriam Rose Ungunmerr
The profound voice of Jade Kennedy on Welcome to Country
Here’s a link to a great story of Mowaljarlai’s ongoing influence on Indigenous thought leaders.
Here’s Tyson Yunkaporta’s podcast where he interviews me about CERES and Kingfisher Festival: What Can I Do?
And what he says about our chat: Outsourcing our biggest FAQ here. Maya Ward, author of “The Comfort of Water” is now receiving queries from settlers who are calling themselves “white” and asking how to come back into the spirit of place in rigorous and respectful ways that are not in extractive relation, not overstepping or appropriating. It is a space of nuance and intense discomfort and danger there, but it is generative, so Maya and I talk up Kingfisher ceremony on Wurundjeri land, in a feedback loop of crazy. It may be crazy, but both of us agree that if settlers cannot come back under the Law of the land soon, everything and everyone will die. No pressure.
You’re also welcome to read my blog – this post is of particular relevance.
There’s some videos of past events, including talks given to the Jung Society, on my Events page
The teacher who has taught me most is a Native North American fellow, Martin Prechtel, who lived as a shaman in a traditional Mayan village in Guatemala. The best way to absorb his wisdom is hearing his words; his audiobooks, or for a taste, listen here.
Here’s a brilliant, beautiful and artfully created podcast, The Emerald
Josh Schrei dives into many of the themes that we will explore during the course – I’ve got to know him through his patreon study group; we’re sharing many of our favourite references and supporting each other to make these ideas more widely known. His podcast is a truly exceptional listening experience and comes highly recommended. Some particularly relevant episodes include the ones with Tyson Yunkaporta, plus these:
And his latest where he speaks of Jung’s Active Imagination: Mapping The Mystic: Geographies of Ecstasy in Consciousness and Culture