What does the land mean to Indigenous Australians? One Aboriginal man who tried to explain the land's importance was Silas Roberts, a man from the Roper River region of the Northern Territory. As chair of the Northern Land Council, he addressed the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry in 1976:
'Aborigines have a special connection with everything that is natural. Aborigines see themselves as part of nature. We see all things natural as part of us. All the things on earth we see as part human. This is told through the idea of the dreaming.
'By dreaming, we mean the belief that long ago, these creatures started human society, they made all natural things and put them down in special places. These dreaming creatures were connected to special places and special roads or tracks or paths. In many cases, the great creatures changed themselves into sites where their spirits stay.
'My people believe this and I believe in this. Nothing anyone ever says to me will change my belief in this.
'This is my story as it is the story of every true Aborigine. All the land is full of signs, and what these great creatures did and what they left we see as very important. And we see this just as much as before.
'These creatures, these great creatures are just as much alive today as they were in the beginning. They were everlasting and will never die. They are always part of the land and nature as we are. We cannot change and nor can they.
'Our connection to all things natural is spiritual. We worship spiritual sites today. We have songs and dances for those sites and we... never approach without preparing ourselves properly. When the great creatures moved across the land they made small groups of people like me in each area. These people were given jobs to do but I cannot go any further than that here.
'It is true that people who... belong to a particular area are really part of that area and if that area is destroyed they are also destroyed.
'In my travels throughout Australia, I have met many Aborigines from other parts who have lost their culture. They have always lost their land and by losing their land they have lost part of themselves. By way of example they are like Christians who have lost their soul and don't know where they are - just wandering. We in the Northern Territory seem to be the only ones who have kept their culture.'
Keywords: cultural preservation, culture, custom, dreamtime, land ownership, Northern Territory, Ranger Uranium Mine, Roberts, Silas, Roper River, 1976
'Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry: Transcript of Proceedings'©Commonwealth of Australia, reproduced by permission. Still:Silas Roberts. Courtesy of AIATSIS.
Author: Strelein, Lisa