AILA SA Executive Message

2023 has is almost at an end. Summer is approaching fast, and the holidays season is near, where many of us will seek the warmth of the beach sand under our feet, the calming sound of the waves and the coolness of a refreshing sea. Many others will seek trekking and camping adventures, battling nature to reap the rewards of close contact with natural greenspaces, distant views, and solitude.

My first time writing this kind of small excerpt for AILA, I thought I could write about my personal passion, reading, and refer to you all a couple of non-fiction Aboriginal Knowledge focused books for those soporific arvos on the beach, or late-night relaxing hours next to the campfire. Enthralling books to dive into to make the most of the scarce leisure time over your holidays. Or simply enjoy over a cup of coffee in the late afternoon at home - well, tea, for those not coffee-crazy enough like me, who can drink black coffee at 11pm and then go to bed.

AILA proudly has Connection to Country as one of its Strategic Values and guiding principle on all the events, publications, and relationships we strive for; we have just finished our National Conference here in Adelaide with a strong Aboriginal presence and advocacy; and there are now more nation wide award-winning projects with robust, mindful and real Aboriginal Communities involvement from the get-go.

To strengthen this all, over the last couple of years there has been a strong output of Aboriginal Knowledge books, led, authored, or edited by Indigenous people we, as Landscape Architects, should be integrating into our professional (and as Australians, personal) development.  

My take on this is simple: We practice on Country, we should learn Country. To achieve meaningful cooperation with our Indigenous people, we should read them.

Of particular interest, and the most approachable and overarching anthology of Aboriginal Knowledge, is the First Knowledges Series form Thames and Hudson, edited by Margo Neale, which strides First Nations Knowledge encompassing everything form Songlines, Design, Country, Astronomy, Plants, Laws, and most recently, Innovation. A treasure trove of knowledge and a refreshing introduction into vast aspects of Australian Indigenous life, easy to read and informative all round.

A more personal take, and vastly more impacting due to the firsthand experience of its author through his battle with old western ideas about managing country, Fire Country, by Victor Steffensen is an inspiring book that rightly points out how the continuous integration of Aboriginal management practices, specifically cold burns, should be encouraged, nurtured and endorsed to achieve a truly regenerative Australian landscape. As with Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu, Steffensen’s Fire Country now also has 2 children editions you can gift your kids this holiday season.

Grandiose in its aim, but personal and intimate in its writing, Tyson Yunkaporta asks -and guides us to common sense answers, I may say- how we can fix contemporary issues with First Nations Knowledge as a guide in his Sand Talk book, a true contemporary yarning exercise, now enhanced and enlarged in his new book Right Story, Wrong Story.

A differentiated key point of view, also accompanying and grounding another one of AILA’s core values, Gender Equity, is strongly voiced and represented in force in Song Spirals: Sharing Women’s Wisdom of Country Through Songlines by the Gay'wu Group of Women, in which through the singing of Country, and caring for country from a women perspective, we acquire a completely different, potentiated view and understanding of what Country and Human wellbeing really are, and how us, as a profession, should keep striving to have this voices at the forefront of our advocacy.

Finally, its important to read the powerful, sometimes core shaking, at times confronting but always engaging and informative pair Welcome to Country and The Welcome to Country Handbook by Marcia Langton, in which non-Aboriginal Australians are rightly called - I will insist demanded- to play a meaningful role in integrating, and walking along, our Aboriginal brothers and sisters in our caring for Country journey.

I won’t discuss Bruce Pascoe, Bill Gammage, Paul Memmott, Alison Page, Marlee Silva, Stan Grant, Karl-Erik Sveiby or Tex Skuthorpe ‘s books, as you will find them in all the reference sections of the short list I have given, but it’s always worth keeping an eye out for any new release they have as well.

The main lesson on all this books -and many others- is simply that if we want the sand under our feet to keep feeling warmth and not coal burning hot; the waves to be calming and not menacing and flooding;  the sea to be refreshing and not boiling hot; and the multiple landscape of our Country to be out there to be trekked and awing, we, as Landscape Architects, need to bolster our knowledge about planning, designing, and caring for Country.

I believe the knowledge instilled in those books is a great enhancement for our already committed community.

Enlightening reading.

Mauricio Herrera Villa
AILA SA Executive Member