The project started with Den. Den leads Aboriginal Heritage Tours at the Melbourne Botanic Gardens. He teaches visitors about Aboriginal Heritage, Culture and Connection to the land. As a spiritual man Den shows us a different way of thinking about land and it's role in our lives. He feels that the spirits gave him this work teaching about Aboriginal Culture and his work at Radio 3KND Kool n Deadly to help young people, and to restore respect for women. He couldn't ask for more.
Why not take a tour at your Botanic Gardens to learn more about our nations heritage? Learning just a little bit more is what will help us step closer to a stronger nation. Most large gardens have tours or self guided walks.
People have keys to their house and keys to their car so that no one can take them.
The Land is my key. The key to my identity; key to my language; key to my culture and the key to my heart.
This key was taken. I work each day to restore that connection to the land and help others understand that the land is the source of who I am.
Aboriginal people don't lock away what they have because it belongs to everyone. Our way is to welcome everyone and work together.
I grew up in Queensland on an Aboriginal settlement. It was good as a child – it was great in fact – and we always had lots of games to play. You don’t understand as a child the way your people are treated.
As I grew up, I came to realise everything on the settlement was forced – we weren’t allowed to speak our native dialects and we were on rations from the government. On the settlement, we starved a lot, and we didn’t have work. Our rights were taken away from us. When the white men returned from war, they took all the jobs in manual labour that my people had been employed in.
I remember hearing from older people that white people thought it was dangerous to educate Aborigines, so when I grew up I wasn’t very educated and couldn’t read and write properly. I was born in 1957, and Aborigines weren’t even classed as Australian citizens until 1967. So for the first 10 years of my life, I wasn’t even classified as a real Australian.
I ran away from the settlement when I was 13 and a half. I got jobs in labouring, on the railways and ringbarking. I kept returning to the settlement until my mother died, and then I moved away from Queensland for good.
I moved to Sydney first and went to the Aboriginal TAFE and studied the basics in grammar and history. I didn’t know much about Australian history. One day they showed us clips and slides and I became angry about the way our people were treated and it made me hate white people. But then I couldn’t hate white people because a lot of the teachers were white, so I couldn’t blame them all.
People tell us to move on. If you’re going to tell Aborigines to move on, tell the veterans to not march on Anzac Day, tell the Jews to forgive Germans, and tell people who have lost their homes to floods and fires to forget about it. You don’t know until it happens to you. I can forgive, but I will never forget.
When I came to Melbourne, I was working voluntarily for a conservation group. I met a friend making songlines – Aboriginal music. He told me he was starting up a radio station – 3KND – and asked me to join. It’s our ninth year coming up, and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. My show, Mixing It In, has healed me inside and out. I choose the songs; the voice is a powerful thing. It took me two years to get my pain and suffering out. I still see it happening today with my people. It doesn’t matter what colour a person is – we can’t help a person until we are ourselves healed.
I joined Port Phillip Citizens for Reconciliation 12 years ago. I believe before Aboriginal people can reconcile with white people, we need to reconcile our own people first.
I’m also a poet, and go by the name Den the Fish. I call myself a no-hoper. “No” for violence against women, children, the elderly and people with disabilities. “Hoper” that we can one day all sit around a big fire and have a laugh, have a drink, have a cry, and move together as one
Den the Fish - Beginning
Bruce Pascoe is a crusader. He researches history to tell the right story; grows crops to create commercial futures from native plants; researches language to maintain the flame for future generations and to help them know the strength of who they are.
Bruce is an Aboriginal Australian writer, from the Bunurong clan, of the Kulin nation. As well as being an award winning writer, Bruce has been a teacher, farmer, a fisherman and an Aboriginal language researcher. Currently he is Director of Commonwealth Australian Studies project and is dedicated to increasing awareness of Australian history as it happened. Most Australian history texts tell us of 'Terra Nullius' - a land empty of people. Bruce is the author of Dark Emu a book that researches existing text from early Australian explorers, settlers and officials and uses it to show that the history we have been taught is not what actually happened as far as Aboriginal life and culture are concerned.
Dark Emu challenges the claim that precolonial Indigenous Australians were a hunter gatherer society. The journals of early explorers, newspapers and oficial's records show the agricultural scope and sophistication of Aboriginal Australians when the explorers arrived - illuminating our past in order to light the future.
Bruce is involved in cultivating murnong yams and other indigenous crops to promote their commercial distribution. Did you know that the first bread was baked in Australia over 30,000 years ago, 15,000 years before the Egyptians used flour to bake bread? We have such great stories in Australia - it is time to learn more of them.
Norman Tindale documented aboriginal grain crops covering most of the Australian continent but contemporary grain areas make up less than a quarter of that area. What might happen if we explore those traditional grains and how they were grown in areas we now call desert? There is much to learn from our past to help build a stronger Australian future.
"You can't eat our foods if you can't swallow our history."