Healthy Earth, Healthy Everyone

Healthy Earth, Healthy Everyone

“We need to take care of nature, because nature takes care of everyone in the world. If there was no nature, we would not be able to breathe or live. We should cut down less trees and limit our use of paper.”

Jessica, 8 Years old

This was a beautiful quote by my 8-year-old niece whose pure and simple wisdom recently moved me deeply.

During my nursing studies at Sydney Nursing School, one of the hardest challenges I have had to face recently was writing an essay about the ways in which colonisation and its ongoing impacts affect the health and wellbeing of Australian First Nations Peoples. The Nursing Code of Conduct (Principle 3) states, “understanding and acknowledging historic factors such as colonisation and its impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ health helps inform care” (Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia, 2022).

Recognising the devastating impacts of colonisation and changing the deficit discourse, a negative narrative of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples under the lens of colonial ideology as a ‘problem to be solved’, it is imperative to apply a ‘decolonising gaze’ and a strength-based approach not only for delivering culturally safe and appropriate care for Australian First Nations Peoples but also for everyone in the world as well (Bryant et al., 2021; Fogarty et al., 2018; Mollard et al., 2020; Sherwood, 2021; Usher et al, 2021; Verbunt et al., 2021).

Truth-telling brings to light the dark legacy and tragic history of colonisation in Australia, as well as worldwide, and the profound injustices and complex interplay of social, economic and political forces behind Aboriginal health and wellbeing (Power et al., 2020; Sherwood, 2013; Verbunt et al., 2021; Vines, 2022). It is crucial to understand and acknowledge the mistakes of the past to prevent repeating the same mistakes in the present and future.

Studying the burden of disease, poor socioeconomic status and severe disadvantages experienced by Australian First Nations Peoples has also highlighted the innate resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ culture (Darwin et al., 2020; Sherwood, 2013; Usher et al, 2021; Verbunt et al., 2021; Yadeun-Antuñano & Vieira, 2020). We can all learn something invaluable from the long withstanding rich cultural diversity of Aboriginal communities which are built on strong interrelationships and interconnections that may be the underlying secret to traditional Aboriginal health and longevity (Terare & Rawsthorne, 2020).

While recently doing artwork together with my 8-year-old niece, I asked her what the flower represented, and she said, “We need to take care of nature, because nature takes care of everyone.” Her pure and simple words awakened a deep understanding in me as I connected her words with the ancient profound wisdom of Australian First Nations Peoples’ culture.

Recognised as the oldest continuing living culture in the entire world, traditional lore and law of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities recognise the symbiotic nature of all existence (National Museum Australia, 2022; Sherwood, 2021). There is an inherent deep respect for the reciprocal relationship between people, land, sea and spirituality, commonly described as “healthy Country, healthy people” (Bhatti & Hassan, 2022; Evolve Communities, n.d.; Sherwood, 2021).

Tracing the roots of traditional Chinese medicine back to this ancient profound wisdom of Aboriginal culture, it dawned on me: Our health is connected to caring for land—our Earth. I strongly believe we all need to learn from the Aboriginal Worldview—ways of knowing, being, and doing—and help bring their traditional accumulated knowledge of Country to the forefront in educational and healthcare systems for everyone’s benefit.

Through Dreamtime stories, songs, art, dance, rituals and ceremonies; communication through silence, yarning circles (storytelling) and dadirri (deep listening); honouring gender specific roles and responsibilities integral to the wellness of the community; and restoring leadership of Elders who were traditionally respected to transmit sacred ancestral knowledge to the next generation—we can all discover and cultivate this essence of holistic health and wellbeing which I consider to be the purest origin of traditional Chinese medicine and Qigong (Sherwood, 2021; Terare and Rawthorne, 2020; Verbunt et al., 2021).

This Earth day, every day, I encourage you to love and care for our Earth the way we would care for a family member, and listen—deeply listen—the Earth is healing and taking care of us in return (Evolve Communities, n.d.; Ungunmerr, 1988).

To learn more, I encourage you to read this article which deeply resonated with my soul:

Dadirri—Inner Deep Listening and Quiet Still Awareness
A reflection by Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr

References and Bibliography

Bhatti, H.S., & Hassan, T. (2022). The impact of historic and contemporary events on the current educational context of Aboriginal education and the importance of integrating Aboriginal perspectives, culture and histories into the Australian curriculum. The Middle East International Journal for Social Sciences, 4(1), 15–19.

Bryant, J., Bolt, R., Botfield, J.R., Martin, K., Doyle, M., Murphy, D., Graham, S., Newman, C.E., Bell, S., Treloar, C., Browne, A.J., & Aggleton, P. (2021). Beyond deficit: ‘strengths-based approaches’ in Indigenous health research. Sociology of Health & Illness, 43, 1405–1421.

Cubillo, C. (2021). Trauma-informed care: Culturally responsive practice working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. InPsych The Bulletin of the Australian Psychological Society Limited, 43(3).

Darwin, L., Tujague, N., Ryan, K., Meteoro, N., Schafer, T., Bloomfield, N., Carroll, C., Love, B., Hubbert, A.B., Medlin, L., Bilston, B., & Alick, R. (2020, July 19). “We are Strong. We are Resilient. But we are Tired” – Voices from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Lived Experience Centre Yarning Circles Report. The Seedling Group and The Black Dog Institute.

Evolve Communities. (n.d.). Connection to Country – Why is Country important to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People?

Fogarty, W., Lovell, M., Langenberg, J., & Heron, M. (2018). Deficit Discourse and Strengths-based Approaches: changing the narrative of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing. The Lowitja Institute, Melbourne.

Holz, G. & Holz, R. (2013). Secrets of Aboriginal Healing: a physicist’s journey with a remote Australian tribe. Bear & Company, Rochester, VT.

Mollard, E., Hatton-Bowers, H., & Tippens, J. (2020). Finding strength in vulnerability: ethical approaches when conducting research with vulnerable populations. Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health, 65(6), 802–807.

National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO). (2022). Aboriginal health in Aboriginal hands.

National Museum Australia. (2022). Defining moments: evidence of first peoples.

Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia. (2022). Professional standards: Code of conduct for nurses.

Power, T., Wilson, D., Best, O., Brockie, T., Bourque Bearskin, L., Millender, E., & Lowe, J. (2020). COVID-19 and Indigenous Peoples: An imperative for action. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 29(15-16), 2737–2741.

Richards, S. (2020). Aboriginal Dreamtime healing using Holographic Kinetics: an advanced Aboriginal healing modality. Holographic Kinetics.

Sherwood, J. (2013). Colonisation – it’s bad for your health: the context of Aboriginal health. Contemporary Nurse, 46(1), 28–40.

Sherwood, J. (2021). Historical and current perspectives on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. In Best, O., & Fredericks, B. (Eds.), Yatdjuligin: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nursing and Midwifery Care. (3rd ed.). (pp. 6–33). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Terare, M., & Rawsthorne, M. (2020). Country is yarning to me: Worldview, health and well-being amongst Australian First Nations People. The British Journal of Social Work, 50(3), 944–960.

Ungunmerr, M.R. (1988). Dadirri: inner deep listening and quiet still awareness. Miriam Rose Foundation.

Usher, K., Jackson, D., Walker, R., Durkin, J., Smallwood, R., Robinson, M., Uncle Sampson, N., Adams, I., Porter, C., & Mariott, R. (2021). Indigenous resilience in Australia: a scoping review using a reflective decolonizing collective dialogue. Frontiers in Public Health, 9.

Verbunt, E., Luke, J., Paradies, Y., Bamblett, M., Salamone, C., Jones, A., & Kelaher, M. (2021). Cultural determinants of health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – a narrative overview of reviews. International Journal for Equity in Health, 20, Article 181.

Vines, E. (2022). Voice, treaty, truth? The role of truth-telling in Australian, state and territory governments’ reconciliation processes: a chronology from 2015. (Research Paper Series, 2022–23). Parliament of Australia.

Yadeun-Antuñano, M., & Vieira, L.C. (2020). Indigenous perspectives of resilience: strength and adaptive strategies. In Leal Filho, W., Wall, T., Azul, A.M., Brandli, L., & Özuyar, P.G. (Eds.), Good Health and Well-Being. Encyclopedia of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Springer, Cham.


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