Our connection to Country

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Words by Megan Rowlatt

Smoking ceremony at the Western Sydney Intrepid Landcare Leadership Retreat. Photo cred: Naomi Edwards

Standing on Darug country overlooking the mighty Hawkesbury River, the sound of clapsticks echoed over the valley along with the faint crackling of a small fire and the ringing of the Bell miners and Whip birds. Cleansing smoke washing over our newest Western Sydney Intrepid Landcarers as they slowly and purposefully moved through the space. A smoking ceremony had been prepared for us by Darug Aboriginal man Chris Tobin.

The morning spent speaking of local culture, Dreamtime stories, Aboriginal land management, and the raw and honest dark side to European settlement. All with openness, free from judgement, unease or blame. A safe space to be open and curious, and to explore our history and practices together. Integrated into our weekend-long Leadership Retreat program at Brewongle Environmental Education Centre, was then a chance to give back to the area with a tree planting, kayak and clean up of the river.

These are the experiences Intrepid Landcare has been working to integrate into our organisational culture since our inception in 2015. Our Illawarra Intrepid Landcare tribe has been taking this on for even longer.


Illawarra Intrepid Landcare attended the Cutural Burn at Yellomundee Regional Park. Photo cred: Megan Rowlatt

Retreats and local projects which are self-driven by young people all over Australia, encourage connection to nature, connection to other like-minded young people, connection to community and connection to culture. And our tribes have been on some truly epic experiences to date. Think kayaking, weeding and cultural burning, secret cultural artefact expeditions, smoking ceremonies, site tours and storytelling, restoring an incredibly significant 6,000 year old burial site, to bush tucker tasting, Aboriginal art lessons, learning traditional dance and simply sharing food and knowledge. Not only is it an incredibly enriching experience for all involved, it’s giving young people an access to a different perspective of how we connect, interact with and look after the Australian landscape. An Aboriginal perspective.


Words by Kara Agllias

Hunter Intrepid Landcare with Uncle Paul Callaghan. Photo cred: Rhys Callaghan

One of our newest tribes, Hunter Intrepid Landcare recently stepped on Worimi Country for a cultural immersion experience.

“Learning on Country First Australians have actively cared for the land for tens of thousands of years in Australia. It was this amazing living culture that drew our Intrepid Landcare group to spend the day on Country with Worimi Elder Uncle Paul Callaghan and his son Rhys.

After a “Bitou Busting” (also known as weeding Bitou Bush) we stepped through the smoke of a traditional smoking ceremony onto the Yaccabaa sand dunes. Uncle Paul welcomed us to Country in Gathang, the local Worimi language and shared with us his perspective on the importance of caring for the land from a local indigenous perspective. The group walked the headland, learning about local plant uses, traditional practices and local history.

As the sun started to set the group painted up in ochre and created a corroboree circle. Uncle Paul and Rhys stepped us through three traditional dances to pay our respects to a number of local animals, including the Pelican, a friend that we had seen overhead often during the day.

The group was glowing as we stepped off the dunes, feeling hopeful and empowered to continue their journey Caring for Country.”

Short film captured & produced by John Hembraa, Hunter Intrepid Landcare


Caring for country is everyone’s responsibility. Our Indigenous brothers and sisters have been practicing this for thousands of years and hold a wealth of knowledge and wisdom about how country supports us to thrive in mind, body and spirit.

Through our shared experiences Intrepid Landcare believes we can continue to grow and learn together, and ultimately achieve the best outcomes for our environment and community for thousands of years to come.

As the nation wraps up NAIDOC Week through key community events, broadcasts and conversations about this year’s theme – Our languages matter, we reflect on the power the Landcare movement has to bring us all together and move us forward.

An Elder once shared with us on project “this is the ultimate form of reconciliation for me, people from all backgrounds, all generations, all religions, coming together and healing country through landcare”. We couldn’t agree more.

Intrepid Landcare would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of all the lands on which we meet, work and explore. Elders past, present and emerging, the original carers and knowledge-bearers who manage and protect this land for future generations.

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