We recently had a family holiday in Brisbane, sandwiched between two conferences (my only for the year, I hasten to add!). We visited a sanctuary where we got to cuddle a koala, and get up close and personal with a wallaby and her joey—poking its wee head out of her pouch.
I remember when I was expecting our son, our prenatal teacher told us that human parenting is closest to marsupials, or pouch animals. For the first three months of an infant’s life, they need to be wrapped in our constant attention and nurture. We guard them as closely as if they were still in the womb.
This sense of guardianship was something I pondered often in Australia, upon hearing the developing custom of ‘Welcome to Country’. This has been used since 1978 at the opening of events to honour the original Aboriginal guardians of the land. It is a simple but powerful acknowledgement. I couldn’t help but feel how humbling it would be for me, as part of the dominant Pākehā culture, to remind myself frequently that the land is not mine.
One of the powerful moments at Thought Matters this year was when indigenous speaker Brooke Prentis challenged the colonial assumption that Aboriginal people were ‘uncivilised’. In fact, they sustained and nurtured the land for thousands of years—an achievement our current culture has failed at miserably.
There is nothing like cuddling a koala to remind us that we are merely humble guardians, of the earth and of each other.
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.
Ngā Waiata 24:1
Nō Ihowā te whenua, me ōna tini mea, te ao, me ngā tāngata e noho ana i runga.