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  • Writer's pictureGregory Andrews

Caring for Country is Caring for Communities

Protecting the natural environment and empowering First Nations communities is at the heart of what Lyrebird Dreaming is about. A recent collaboration with Blacktown City Council on the "Big Plans for Little Creek" project exemplifies how these two things come together. The council is aiming to rejuvenate a degraded natural space, and doing so will have significant community benefits - particularly for local First Nations peoples.

We were honoured to be invited by the council to spend a day at the Cooee Festival in Western Sydney last month explaining the project and listening to Aboriginal community ideas for participation going forward.

Engaging with First Nations isn't merely a procedural step in environmental projects; it's an essential practice that brings depth, sustainability, and authenticity to conservation efforts and outcomes. And engagement has to go beyond mere consultation. Genuinely effective and respectful community engagement involves active listening, learning, flexibile approaches to inclusion, and integrating First Nations knowledge systems that have been honed over thousands of years.

Historically, many restoration projects have overlooked traditional First Nations wisdom, often leading to less effective and culturally dissonant outcomes. But increasingly, the conservation community understands that caring for country is not just about ecological restoration but about inclusion, healing and re-establishing cultural ties that First Nations peoples have with ancestral lands. Blacktown City Council gets that.

Our experience at the Cooee Festival underscored the importance of listening. We engaged directly with Darug and other community members, discussing the project proposal and exploring ways for the community to have input going forward. Everyone agreed that local Aboriginal voices will help ensure the project's maximum success.

Benefits of Inclusion

Incorporating First Nations' perspectives yields numerous benefits:

  • Cultural Integrity: Projects become a platform for expressing and preserving First Nations heritage.

  • Ecological Wisdom: Traditional ecological knowledge leads to more resilient and sustainable environmental management practices and outcomes.

  • Community Trust: Genuine engagement builds trust and strengthens relationships between government bodies, environment organisations, and local communities.

  • Community Recovery: Through participation and greater agency and ownership of environmental outcomes, significant social and economic outcomes accrue.

Almost one-fifth of the residents in the area of Little Creek are First Nations peoples. This statistic underlines the importance of this project not just as an environmental initiative but as a powerful step towards decolonisation, cultural revival and greater community empowerment. By working with First Nations in transforming Little Creek back to its natural state, Blacktown City Council will not only be restoring the land but also helping to bring back an important piece of lost heritage for Darug people. Lyrebird Dreaming is proud to be have been part of this and looks forward to supporting it further.

Check out more about the council's Big Plans for Little Creek here.

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