Nana Viv / by Paul Choy

The quietly spoken matriarchal elder of an Aboriginal family, which can trace it’s roots back far before any Europeans arrived on the shores of Australia, Nana Viv has dedicated her life to the preservation of Aboriginal culture and history.

For over 40,000 years, the Nyungar people have called the lands of South West Australia their home, but today only a tiny fraction of the inhabitants this vast region are of Aboriginal descent. In just 200 years, their population has been decimated by disease and war brought by the colonial settlers from the west.

For generations, Nana Via and her family have been fighting for the recognition of the Aboriginal people in the Australian constitution. But it is not ownership of the lands which drive  them. Seeing themselves as the guardians of the coastal lands, the gateway to their sacred ocean, the Nyungar feel it their responsibility to protect the land for future generations.

"They are like children who don't understand what they are doing to the land all around us", Nana Viv tells us, speaking slowly to allow our western minds to understand, "we have to protect this land. This is not something we chose to do, it is something we have to do."

Time and time again, the history of the world is littered with examples of humanity charging in without fully understanding the consequences of our actions. We rip fossil fuel from the land and the ocean, we cut down the ancient rainforests, push back the ocean to create more space to build upon, and pump huge volume of chemicals into the atmosphere, all in the name of the advancement of humanity.

But to Nana Viv, and many of the other ancient peoples and civilisations, our actions are simply those of impatient children, tearing up the world without thought for the future.

As the governments of the world look towards an uncertain future, as we begin to better understand the damage our actions have caused, I am left to wonder whether perhaps Nana Viv has a point.