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New Colombo Plan

Gubbi Gubbi man shares Dreaming stories, knowledge and culture with New Colombo Plan scholars

Gubbi Gubbi man Lyndon Davis believes he has a special opportunity to increase the knowledge and wisdom of new generations of Australian students at a significant moment.

Lyndon led a First Nations study tour to K'gari and the Sunshine Coast last month, giving New Colombo Plan scholars a better understanding of First Nations' practices of learning, knowledge sharing and diplomacy, and how to apply that knowledge during their NCP Scholarship.

Group shot of Lyndon with New Colombo Plan scholars on a beach with the sea and sky in the background
Gubbi Gubbi man Lyndon Davis believes he has a special opportunity to increase the knowledge and wisdom of young Australians. image credit: Mia Tong

Lyndon says being able to share First Nations cultural knowledge with New Colombo Plan scholars before they head overseas is invaluable.

'Understanding First Nations culture by being on the land and hearing about our history and connection to country makes them much stronger representatives internationally – it gives them wisdom,' he says.

'Some of what I share is right in front of them, and that's exciting, they see the plants, the animals and insects all have a place in our culture and in the environment, and realise they are like heirlooms that we need to look after and preserve.'

And it is Lyndon's passion for culture and the land that captivated University of Wollongong Bachelor of Creative Arts student, Alinta Maguire who will travel to Fiji and Tonga this year through her New Colombo Plan Scholarship.

A Gamilaraay, Ngemba woman, living on Dharawal country, Alinta applied for the tour to expand her understanding of First Nations cultures around Australia.

'Lyndon's insights were invaluable and deeply informative, giving me a much more profound understanding of First Nations philosophy, knowledge, and beliefs,' she says.

'He shared his Dreaming stories, knowledge of native plants, sacred sites and much more.'

She says the lasting skills she gained were patience, deep listening, an open mind, and open heart.

She believes this will stand her in good stead for her internship in Tonga, where she plans to intern at the Seleka International Art Society Initiative.

Alinta smiling who has long curly hair and is holding a red jacket
Gamilaraay, Ngemba woman Alinta Maguire will undertake her New Colombo Plan scholarship in Fiji and Tonga. Image credit: Mia Tong

'I hope to learn as much as possible about First Nations art making practices around the world and to undertake cross-cultural collaborations – this experience lays a strong foundation for that.'

For Indus Fisher, who is undertaking a Bachelor of Marine Science at James Cook University and will head to Fiji to complete his program at the University of the South Pacific, the study tour emphasised the physical and spiritual connections between land and sea.

'This experience has given me a greater appreciation of the interconnectedness of the whole system,' Indus says.

'One of the lectures focused on different ways of knowing and had us considering the value of holocentric approaches, where you move from looking at simply the parts of a system and towards understanding how they fit in, how they interact and work together from a whole community perspective.'

'That understanding is so important for management and policy making, and I hope to apply that knowledge in Fiji, where about 90 per cent of the land in Fiji is owned and managed by Traditional Custodians.'

'The study tour really highlighted the value of understanding connection to country, traditional management techniques and the communication skills required to discuss ideas respectfully with Traditional Owners.'

'This study tour included hearing from Traditional Owners but also others who have lived and worked in Gubbi Gubbi country, which gave us wider perspectives but also a better understanding of how the landscape and culture have changed and evolved.'

Lyndon says the tour aims to give participants more than what they might learn in a classroom.

'You don't find this information in textbooks – it is the knowledge passed on around the campfire or around the kitchen table,' he says.

'It is a message of custodianship and for First Nations and non-First Nations people it gives us a shared knowledge of country and the importance of understanding the whole.'

'For me, I always have a strong belief that the ancestors would want us to have this deeper knowledge of the place that we all live on.'

Five New Colombo Plan scholars smiling with trees and a mountain in the background
Gubbi Gubbi man Lyndon Davis believes he has a special opportunity to increase the knowledge and wisdom of young Australians. Image credit: Mia Tong

This is the third year that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have supported scholars to participate in First Nations study tours on-country before they travel overseas to spend up to 19 months to undertake study, language training and internships in the Indo-Pacific.

The next First Nations study tour will take place in Yidinji country (Cairns) and will be led by First Nations organisation, ETM Perspectives.

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