Heal Country! Chloe D’Souza strikes at the heart of it
NAIDOC WEEK 2021
I’m a Wilman Noongar Woman, and I grew up on Whadjuk Boodjar. From a young age, I was curious about my identity. This started with two opposing narratives of Australia’s history; the one I heard at home, and the one I heard at school. Then in my late teen years, I realised that not growing up on my Country also led to further questions about who I am and where I come from. I began to understand my family history through stories told by my Mother, in particular the struggles that my grandparents went through for basic human rights. I started to recognise how these stories, the good and the bad, shaped me. My family history, traditions, and the language that was spoken and lost in our family, all lead back to Country.
Country is more than a place, it is the heart of our identity, our very belonging. Healing Country starts with greater protections for Country. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been looking after this beautiful land for over 60,000 years. This knowledge is passed through generations, which links us to our ancestors and teaches us tradition. Country is our people, and we cannot heal Country without addressing the injustices of the past that continue today. When all of Australia can see that Country lives in the hearts of our people, we can collectively take steps to enable this healing to occur. Our First People of this nation were and continue to be taken away from their Country, their families, their home. This leads to the devastating social, economic and health disadvantages in society that we still see today.
We deserve better, our future generations deserve better, and Australia needs to do better. To me, heal country is about Australia listening to and including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with a genuine intention to call for action and to walk alongside us as we strive towards thriving Country, people, and communities.
Chloe is a proud Wilman Noongar woman who grew up in Perth, the first Aboriginal person to graduate from Curtin University’s Law School in 2015, and was admitted to the Supreme Court of WA as a Lawyer in 2017. She is a 2020 Bob Hawke John Monash Scholar and intends to use her scholarship to pursue a Master of Laws at Harvard University, focusing on human rights and comparative studies.