The trade winds are still hampering us being able to give a broader opportunity to some of the key people GBRMPA had lined up to visit Sea Country. So far we have been able to take quite a few TO's (Traditional Owners) and their families from the Kuuku Ya'u in Lockhart River. We have also had classes 3/4 and 5 from the Lockhart State School on board. 


Christina Hobson and her sister Thelma on Pelican1 on the way to Piper Island. 

The idea of visiting or being on country from an Indigenous point of view has a very different connotation to the idea of a trip to be in Nature or a visit to a park. The quote below is quite a nice encapsulation about what 'Country' means from an Aboriginal perspective.

‘Country’ as understood in Aboriginal English, ‘is not only a common noun but also a proper noun. People talk about country in the same way they would talk about a person: they speak to country, sing to country, visit country, worry about country, feel sorry for country, and long for country. People say that country knows, hears, smells, takes notice, takes care, and is sorry or happy. Country is not a generalised or undifferentiated type of place, such as one might indicate with terms like “spending a day in the country” or “going up the country”. Rather, country is a living entity with a yesterday, today and tomorrow, with a consciousness, and a will towards life. Because of this richness, country is home, and peace; nourishment for the body, mind and spirit; heart’s ease.’  (D. Rose, quoted in Mulligan and Martin 1996, p. 237). 


Lucy Hobson with her granddaughter Courtney.

The impact of colonisation are profound and still continue to reverberate today. The Kuuku Ya'u continued to fight for their country and recently, after 14 year battle their rights were recognised when they won Native Title to their traditional lands on far north eastern Cape York last year. See -

Many TO's that I spoke to were very happy that they had their country returned but sad it had taken so long, as many of the old people had not lived to see the handover.


Thelma showing the puka shells on Piper Island that the women use to make necklaces.

The connection between being on country and well being, though very clear to the TOs is only recently being understood and studied by researchers. The title of this post comes from a wonderful talk that Des Bowen gave during one of the Hope Vale Pelican camps when he was talking of the significance of being on country. It was night and to amplify his point he shone his torch on his bare feet so that they were the only things we could see. Feet on country.
For those interested, this recent study may be of interest.
Mind, body, spirit: co-benefits for mental health from climate change adaptation and caring for country in remote Aboriginal Australian communities


Kuuku Ya'u people on Piper Island, Great Barrier Reef.
photo- Raf Heale

AuthorMichelle Quach