Uncle Bruce Shillingsworth spoke at Going Gone, a poetry reading and exhibition at Articulate Project Space, Sydney Australia, to mark Lost Species Day 2019. Bruce is a First Nations artist and rights activist who campaigns for just management of the river system.
The event was organised by Juliet Fowler Smith, Noelene Lucas and Gary Warner.
First Nations people are feeling the brunt of the devastation that’s happening – not just here, but right across the world. First Nation people have lived on this country’s land for thousands and thousands of years. I would like to acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation – the custodians of this land. I’d like to acknowledge our Aboriginal brothers and sisters of the past, the present and emerging.
I would like to acknowledge that we now stand on stolen land. First Nation people, like I say, bear the brunt of what’s happening with them – it is our environment, and now a situation that is happening right across the world.
Look, I’m from a liitle place called Brewarrina out in the northwest of New South Wales. Brewarrina is a place where they got the fish traps, the Ngunnhu. Fish traps, stone fish temps, are the oldest man-made structure in the world. It is the oldest – it’s older than the pyramids in Egypt. The pyramids weren’t even built 5000 years ago. So we have a history. We have evidence in this country of the survival of First Nation people.
How do we now survive with the, with the climate change and the changing of our environment, the land we live on? The destructions of the rivers, the extinctions of our animals, and what we relied on for thousands and thousands of years?
Like I said, First Nations people felt the brunt because we have lived with Mother Earth for thousands of years. Mother Earth that sustains us. You know we’re all living in the great circle of life – everything on this earth or on this planet relies on one another. Just like we as First Nations people rely now on non-indigenous people and non-indigenous people rely on First Nations people. I believe that we’re now on a journey. We’re on a journey. We’re on a journey to fix this planet. There is no Planet B – we can’t go anywhere else. We as humans need to live on this one planet together with Mother Nature. We cannot live without Mother Earth because it feeds us, it shelters us, it gives us everything we need.
So then why are we cutting down our trees that gives us oxygen? Why are we polluting the air, polluting our rivers, and putting toxics in our food that we eat? How long do you think we’re going to survive on this planet? They’re only giving us till 2050 – not very long. But we are here. It is our turn, it is our time. We are in a very important time in history. I believe that we are responsible to look after our Mother Earth and nature, the things we live with. If we don’t, we’re going to destroy our lives and our future generation.
Our elders have said to me the land we live on has only been borrowed from our children. How do we give that back to our children? Look at the extinction that’s happened. Australia’s got a record of the most extinct animals in the world. What are we going to do about it? Well I’ll tell you what we’re going to do about it. It’s now time for change. It is time that we’re going to stop the raping of the land, the mining in our countries, the destruction of our rivers and the land. First Nations people are going to now stand up and have their voices heard. First Nations Voice are going to have representatives in all areas of government and in the decisions of this future, of this Australia.
I believe there’s a message: that we’re gonna do it together. It is now time – it is time to change. We will now be the protectors of our lands and our environment. It is us that has the power. It is people power that’s going to change this world. The changes are not going to come from the top – it’s going to come from the bottom like people the likes of yous. From the grassroots level. Change has got to come from the bottom up.
Look, thank you for inviting me. I hope you get another look at some of the artwork, but think about all those living creatures out there – look at the bush fires that are ravaging the land now. Those living creatures are now being destroyed. Look at our rivers that have been dried up – how do you bring back those water creatures? How do you bring back the animals, the birds, to those, to the rivers anymore, when it’s completely gone? Extinct. There’s no life.
Water is life. Water feeds the land, feeds the animals, feeds the birds, feeds all the environment. But look who’s controlling our waters. Look who’s controlling our waters. This is a man-made disaster. This is why our animals are coming extinct. Man is not listening. It is time to change. It is time. Thank you.