How to Know What Indigenous Land You’re On

indigenous land

With Australia Post announcing this week that they would be allowing Australians to use traditional place names instead of colonial ones, Aussies are seeking out information on exactly what country they’re on.

The announcement came after a months-long campaign initiated by Gomeroi woman Rachael McPhail. Australia Post has announced they will incorporate a spot for the Indigenous place name on their parcel sleeves, which is being phased in as part of NAIDOC week.

Australia is made up of over 500 different clan groups or ‘nations’ with distinctive cultures, beliefs and languages. The land that we all live and work on has a traditional name and a people associated with it who are the traditional custodians of that land, living in harmony with it for over 60,000 years.

Recognising these facts and incorporating them into our daily lives is one simple way to pay respect to the traditional custodians of the land and ensure a more beneficial society for everyone.

So, which indigenous country do you currently live or work on? There’s an easy way to find out.

How do you find out which land you are on?

“For every town, for every place in this country, we have an original name, and it’s important to use them as a celebration and to recognise the history and the connection of First People to country,” McPhail told the ABC.

According to her, the next step in Australia Post’s new initiative is to compile a comprehensive database of all the traditional place names. Such a database would require a national, collaborative effort.

Already, the people at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies have complied a map giving good information as to the distinct groups who hold custodianship over different parts of the country.

The map was compiled in 1996 using data collected up until 1994. As such, it is not the most up to date source of information but it is a good starting point to finding out which country you are on.

You’ll notice that the boundaries between Indigenous nations are blurred which has been done intentionally to reflect the inexact nature of knowing precisely where territories ended and began. Much of this information was lost or destroyed during colonisation and Indigenous elders may disagree about exactly where traditional boundaries lie.

It also doesn’t reflect smaller clan groups within each Indigenous nation and often each area was made up of multiple clans. Sydney, for example, is comprised of dozens of clans within the Eora nation. The Gadigal People are the clan of the present-day City of Sydney but other clans have claims to other areas within the region we think of as the broader city.

More detailed and precise information will be available to you on your local council website. They should be able to specify which country the council is based in and give you more information and knowledge about the history and culture of the traditional custodians. Check there and look up your local Aboriginal Corporation to find out more about the land you live and work on.

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