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World Environment Day scholar events focus on Caring for Country

Posted: 30 June 2023

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Australia Awards scholars from South Asia and Mongolia marked World Environment Day 2023 with events to deepen their knowledge of First Nations people’s environmental management and Caring for Country.

Scholars in Adelaide and Sydney participated in First Nations-led walking tours of their cities’ Botanic Gardens where they learnt about how local Indigenous people valued certain plants for food, shelter, and protection. Scholars were interested by the great variety in plants, from the long soft strands of the Lomandra to the tall and sharp-leaved Bunya pine tree. In Adelaide, Maldivian scholar Muawiyath Mohamed Didi remarked, ‘It’s interesting how I recognise some leaves, and we use them similarly to treat illness back home’.

Sydney-based scholars visited the office of non-government organisation Total Environment Centre (TEC), where researchers discussed the pressing issue of koala conservation in urbanised areas of Sydney. In line with the World Environment Day 2023 theme of #BeatPlasticPollution, TEC scientists provided scholars with an overview of microplastic tracking programs underway across Australia.  Adeel Shareef, a Maldivian scholar in Sydney, spoke passionately about the impact of climate change on his country and issues caused by the presence of high volumes of plastic waste.

Brisbane-based scholars walked along the Boondall Wetlands and heard from guides about the importance of local Indigenous knowledge of plant and land management. Scholars witnessed this in action as Queensland officials responsible for bushfire prevention undertook protective grass burns in consultation with Landcare Indigenous Rangers, applying traditional knowledge on the use of fire for flora management in Australia.

Caring for Country incorporates understanding the value of plants for medicinal, spiritual, and practical uses. Noting the importance of land and water management, Queensland-based Bangladeshi scholar Md Junaate Kawser shared his thoughts on the “loss of elements from [his] grandparents’ generation because of the constant choice of convenience over tradition.”

In an online event open to all scholars, Tiahni Adamson, an environmental scientist and proud Torres Strait Islander woman descended from the Kaurareg nations of Thursday Island, gave attendees an overview of Indigenous Caring for Country practices. Tiahni noted the impact of climate change and environmental degradation on First Nations People, including Torres Strait Islanders, and highlighted the importance of Indigenous voices being heard in environmental science and developments that impact people globally. “I love staying in the education space and having great conversations with people making changes, whether in the environment sector or in local communities,” said Tiahni of her engagement with Australia Awards scholars. “It’s inspiring to be around like-minded people who are pushing to do good in the world.”

Scholars in Melbourne and Canberra also marked World Environment Day with events focussed on First Nations environmental management and Caring for Country.