The (Re)Indigenisation of Space: Weaving narratives of resistance to embed Nura [Country] in design

So, Country is known – people sing for it, there are dances known, taught and danced for it, it has its stories that are taught, learned and told. It has its mysteries. It has its rituals. It can be painted, it can be harvested, and one can care for and love it.

Country holds everything and the potential for everything. Indigenous space is part of Country and simultaneously has Country in it. It is therefore always full of the everything and the potentiality of Country. It could never have been empty or terra nullius. According to Mick Dodson, ‘We are talking about the whole of the landscape, not just the places on it. […] All of it is important – we have no wilderness. […] None of it is vacant or empty, it is all interconnected’.[1]

Notably, Country is a lived experience and a heritage, and includes all people who have belonged and will belong to it. For Oliver Costello, Country is holistic. It is the spaces,  the places, the relationships, the connections. Country is everything that exists and everything that does not, everything we know and do not know.[2]

Extending this idea, Kevin O’Brien describes connection to Country as being experienced and understood through the senses and seared into memory. He states:

Country is an Aboriginal idea. It is an idea that binds groupings of Aboriginal people to the place of their ancestors, past, current and future. It understands that every moment of the land, sea and sky, its particles, its prospects and its prompts, enables life. It is revealed over time by camping in it and guides my way into architecture. There is no disenfranchisement, no censorship and no ownership. Country is a belief. It is my belief.[3]

Brian Martin adds to the discussion by stating that Aboriginal culture is created by the reality of Country, where all things are extracted through memory and continual practice. His philosophical approach sees Country as a grounding of the metaphysical (or theoretical) into the material (or physical). ‘Country is the basis of Indigenous ideology and it specifically constitutes and is constituted by the relationship between memory, life and culture, which are embedded in land’.[4]

Country includes everything in the landscape: land, water and sky; it soars high into the atmosphere, deep into the planet crust and far into the oceans. Country – which incorporates ground, space, site, environment – is aesthetic, environmental, social,  spiritual and political. It is geology and geography, landscape and terrain. It writes the ground and imparts the knowledges that afford its care. Cultural connection to Country encompasses narratives and knowledges, incorporating traditions, practices and art, linked to identity, language and community.

Country is inherent rather than owned or earned; we become connected at birth and rights to Country are immediately obtained along with the responsibilities to care for it as we learn through life. This does not change with colonisation; likewise, our kin networks never change.[5]

Country is more than just a place marked on a map in a geographical sense. Nor is it passive scenery for humans to play out their lives. Anthony McKnight discusses Country as ‘decentr[ing] the human authorship privilege of overseer, creator, controller, implementer, and owner’. He indicates that Country provides opportunities to reimagine and co-create how we think about and practice knowledge, because Country holds our knowledges in place, as a source for us to connect and reconnect to the land and to ourselves.

While the processes of colonisation do affect Indigenous spaces, Uncle Greg Simms says that Country is unaffectable, only our relationships with Country can be affected. Likewise, affected relationships are also reclaimable and reparable. Uncle Greg speaks of Country as a place to return to for healing, a place of comfort, strength and nourishment. He discusses changes to the land, saying,

It is still our spirit Country; our spirit still lies there. No matter that they build city on it, it is still a place we can always go back and heal […], it is all changed but it is still Country. You still get healing from that place. Just go back, take off your shoes, walk around on the land to regenerate the soul. Call out the spirits of your ancestors. That is what the Old People taught us. We have got to go home to talk to the Old People, talk to the spirits of our ancestors.[6]

Since Country cannot be divided, while the land may be damaged or traumatised by colonial processes, like a broken arm, it can heal through Country. Thus if one part is removed physically, the songs and stories keep it in place, in memory, and its knowledges remain intact.[7]

Country is sustaining and maintaining, it is sentient and alive.



[1] Dodson, M 2007, ‘Indigenous Protected Areas in Australia’, Yawuru, paper presented to the International Expert Group Meeting on Indigenous Peoples and Protection of the Environment, Khabarovsk Russian Federation, August 27-29.

[2] Costello, O 2015, ‘Yarn with Oliver Costello’, Bundjalung, on Gadigal Lands, Sydney, interviewed by D Hromek, 28 August.

[3] O’Brien, K 2011, ‘In Pursuit of an Architecture of Realism’, Kaurareg and Meriam, Monument, vol. 101, no. March, pp. 35-36.

[4] Martin, B 2013, ‘Immaterial Land’, Bundjalung and Muruwari, in E Barrett & B Bolt (eds), Carnal Knowledge: Towards a ‘new materialism’ through the arts, I B Tauris, London, pp. 185-204.

[5] McKnight, A 2015, ‘Preservice teachers’ learning with Yuin Country: becoming respectful teachers in Aboriginal education’, Awabakal, Gumaroi, and Yuin, Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, vol. 12 July 2015, pp. 1-15.

[6] Simms, G 2015, ‘Yarn with Uncle Greg Simms’, Gadigal/Darug/Gundungurra/Yuin, on Darug Country, Sydney, interviewed by D Hromek, 28 October.

[7] Burarrwanga, L, Ganambarr, B, Maymuru, D, Lloyd, K, Ganambarr-Stubbs, M, Ganambarr, R, Suchet-Pearson, S & Wright, S 2014, Welcome to my Country: seeing the true beauty of life in Bawaka, Yolnu (Burarrwanga, Ganambarr, Maymuru, Ganambarr-Stubbs, Ganambarr), The Conversation, Australia, viewed 11 May 2017, https://

©Danièle Hromek, Budawang/Yuin

For more information and to buy tickets head to the official page of Winynaboga Yurringa.