A new movement is setting out to encourage people to educate themselves about the name and culture of the traditional land they live, work and dream on.

Signs of Respect is an initiative developed by CultureUp!, an Elder-run non-government organisation dedicated to creating policy change which supports community-led and culturally empowering programs.

The initiative is supported by Traditional Cultural Practices and asks people to create homemade signs acknowledging the traditional lands they are situated on. These signs are then to be displayed to the community and across their social media platforms.

Palawa, Wotjobaluk and Wemba Wemba man, Eddie Moore is a spokesperson for the initiative. Moore is a cultural educator and Managing Director of Nyuka Wara Consulting.

“One of the things I often talk about to people who come to my workshops is getting to know the land you’re on, what an Acknowledgement or a Welcome to Country is,” he said.

“A lot of fullas don’t know the Country or the cultural group’s land that they are on, so it is a way to educate people about our culture and get them onboard and educating themselves.”

Moore said Signs of Respect offers an avenue for non-Indigenous people to educate themselves, with the opportunity to bring people together. He encourages both households and businesses to take part and share their signs.

“It does bring people closer as a family, it can be a little project for everyone to do,” he said.

“It’s meant to be spread across Instagram, Facebook and all of the social places so people do become aware. It would be awesome to see that.”

Signs of Respect: Boonwurrung Country. Photo supplied by CultureUp!.

Signs of Respect was born out of North East Arnhem Land. Peter McConchie, CultureUp! founding volunteer, was working with Elders and a community of women in 2019 around community-led remote suicide prevention.

“In 2019 we built a safety house for a community of women. Galupa is a place in the region where women come for support through Elder Gayili Marika Yunupingu. Up until then the women were living in a cyclone damaged shed at Galupa,” McConchie said.

“Galupa has been cut back to about three acres by the mining company that borders it on three sides (the sea is on the fourth side). Gayili was offered $3 million to sell and leave, she didn’t take the money.

“After building Galupa safety house the ladies created a sign acknowledging their traditional land and that they are proud to remain on their Country.

“So, we had a chat and Gayili talked about an idea that it would be wonderful if everyone acknowledged the traditional land they are on. And that was the start of Signs of Respect.”

Signs of Respect: Boonwurrung Country and Kulin Nation. Photos supplied by CultureUp!.

Considering the initiative’s beginning, Moore hopes it has the potential to educate non-Indigenous people on the deep spiritual connection First Nations people have to Country and the impact of removal and dispossession.

“That is something people need to be mindful of, particularly across history, how we have been displaced from our land. It is very therapeutic for us to be on our land,” said Moore.

“[It’s about] taking themselves on a journey of awareness and understanding which will help bridge that gap between white and Blak Australia. The more we start to spread the word the more people start to learn about us, our culture and our history. And the importance of land.

“When you think about land and what has happened to it, with bushfires and the fish dying up in NSW, understanding Aboriginal knowledge and land management would prevent those things from happening in the future.

“It is important for people to be mindful that for 60,000 years-plus we managed and looked after land. If you look after land, land will look after you.”

To participate in Signs of Respect, visit: https://www.cultureup.com.au/signs-of-respect.

By Rachael Knowles