We don't own our country, in owns us, it's there to look after us. We have to look after it. If we treat it badly, we suffer, we get lots of fires and we run out of water. If Ngalyod (Rainbow serpent) gets angry and punishes us there might be earthquakes or floods, and we know she's moving around, angry about something.
To make country stronger you need to know the land, know the story of the land. That means getting out to country. We need to take old people out to the bush, to camp. Not just land owners, but other old people too. If you put old people together, even if they are not all from this country, then you have a big story, and culture keeps strong.
Our knowledge comes from our old people who told us all everything. They gave us all sorts of knowledge – about trees, birds, water – all kinds. People would move around at different times of the year, stay at different places at different times. In the wet season they would stay on higher ground. They are our scientists, the old people who knew how to look after country and have passed on to us to take responsibility.
There are many stories (kunmayali) about our country and the plants and animals in it. These stories tell us about their ecology and so these stories are an essential part of land management and what we need to do for country. Looking after it and sharing it with others. Now we can write down some of our kunmayali and use it in classrooms so kids can learn both ways – both English and Kunwinjku. So they will be able to communicate with outsiders, and be confident to speak and share with outsiders.
We believe what old people told us, and we see it for ourselves, for example how we used to use fire properly. If not we see the damage it does. We see things happen and we wonder how it is affecting everything. We have many stories from the old people, from what they learned growing up, their wisdom and knowledge.