One Tree Island University of Sydney campus

What it means to Heal Country

5 July 2021

Celebrating NAIDOC Week

Professor Lisa Jackson Pulver reflects on the significance of this year's NAIDOC Week theme, Heal Country, for protecting the unique and dynamic environments, sacred sites and cultures of First Nation Peoples across Australia.

What is the significance of this year's NAIDOC Week theme?

Country plays an integral part of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and knowledges. Country isn’t just a physical environment or place – it is intrinsic to our identity and is core to who we are. There is no part of our lives where Country is not held in prominence - from the guidance we get from it spiritually to every physical, emotional, social, and cultural component of our lives.

Sadly, our lands, waters, sacred sites, languages and cultural heritages have suffered from exploitation, desecration and destruction over the last two centuries and more. Heal Country! is about calling for greater protections for our Country and we all have a role to play in honouring the rich cultures and extraordinary knowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples hold.

This week, I reflect on healing Country and join in calls for stronger measures to recognise, protect, and maintain all aspects of our cultures. Together, we can make significant and lasting change and do our bit to Heal Country!

Professor Lisa Jackson Pulver

Professor Lisa Jackson Pulver is the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Indigenous Strategy and Services at the University of Sydney.

What is the best part about celebrating NAIDOC Week with the University community?

NAIDOC Week is a spectacular opportunity to celebrate the history, culture, and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples within the University and our wider community across all our campuses.

The University is fortunate enough to have campuses across many beautiful Countries, including Gadigal Land here in Camperdown, Dharug Land in Camden, Wangal Country in Lidcombe, Gamilaraay Country in Narrabri, Wiradjuri Country in Dubbo, Bundjalung Country in Lismore, and Gagudja Country in Kakadu.

We have people engaged in our academic endeavour across the entire country – a country that has always hosted Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

This week is a time to acknowledge the importance of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and join together – remotely - to celebrate the deep connections Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have with this land.

How can people engage with this year's theme, 'Heal Country'?

One of the most important things we can do is learn from each other, whether it's through discussions, watching videos, attending online events, reading books or visiting museums and galleries. It is a time to actively learn and to truly listen to each other.   

Throughout NAIDOC Week, you will be able to listen to The Heal Country Podcast Series by the Sydney Environment Institute, where they explore what ‘Heal Country, Heal the Nation’ means to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous Australians.

It also investigates the role of knowledge and philosophy – from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspective -  as keys to healing and future protection of our environment, cultures and histories. For this, I invite you to recognise truth-telling and its importance to our shared history.

And finally, embrace Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture within your community. We are fortunate that the University’s Camperdown campus is on beautiful Gadi Land. Like all of the wonderful places where you live and work, there are ways you can engage with Country and local people and learn about their own Aboriginal culture and heritage.

For those in Sydney, I invite you to come and have a look (when you can) at the tangible expression of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander across our Camperdown campus:

How does the theme tie into the University's vision?

It was so exciting to launch the One Sydney, Many People Strategy (2021-24) earlier this year. Within it, we speak of ‘Pemulian’ – an environment and sense of place for us all. This focus area of the strategy speaks to this year’s NAIDOC theme Heal Country!  

In our Pemulian, within the buildings and campus grounds of the University, we strive to enhance the environments in which we learn and work, to embody Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural values and to ensure exchanges of knowledge and learning can occur easily.

This year our Service Learning in Indigenous Communities (SLIC) students had the chance to learn about our culture with hands-on experience on Country and listen to leading community members about their fight for change. Hear from students who have participated in SLIC in this video.

Learn more about the Heal Country message in the context of the University of Sydney in this short explainer video.

Celebrating our community and achievements