The Wisdom of Indigenous Knowledge Systems


  The Wisdom of Indigenous Knowledge Systems  

Humans have evolved as story tellers and passing on wisdom through storytelling has been the basis for a lot of ancient societies. Indigenous people lived, and still live, in most parts of the world so they have a wide knowledge about how to live sustainably with their local environment. A strength of indigenous knowledge systems is that they are designed to be applied universally and holistically, without hierarchy or specialization.

This blog post is going to focus on how we can apply this wisdom for our contemporary society by looking into how indigenous people can teach us about sustainable living in an urban context, understanding what it means to be “wise” from an indigenous perspective, examining some examples of Indigenous perspectives and knowledge systems that are relevant for our time.

There is no one definition of wisdom. It is often linked to old age, but in the Aboriginal language Guugu Yimithirr you have to be a father before you are allowed to use the word for yourself. This means that wisdom comes with experience, and we can gain this from Indigenous people in an urban context by learning from them.

Indigenous people live on less than 5% of Australia’s landmass, yet they account for over half of all custodial vested interests in land. This indicates that they are still connected with country and particularly with spiritual places, despite being disconnected from their traditional lands.

People who are disconnected from land suffer because of this. The four dimensions of well-being in the Gallup International Well-Being Index are community, environment, economic and physical health. If you are disconnected from your land then you will be disconnected from all of these areas.

Indigenous people have much knowledge about how to live sustainably with the environment they live in. How they do so is a matter of choice, and they make choices based on their past experiences as well as on conservation and preservation guidelines and laws that have been made by their communities.

It is not just about how they lived in the past though, it is also about how to live into the future too.

The Aboriginal people of Gawa have a cultural practice called ‘walkabout’. While the non-Indigenous world has missions, Gawa has a tradition of walking across the land to heal, learn, and give thanks. Both journeys are gifts that provide valuable experiences and rekindle pride in what is given and what is received.

Walking, talking about country, dreaming stories together, singing songs around a fire – these create an awareness of heritage and are so much better than just sitting on the couches watching TV or playing computer games.

When we start connecting with our cultural heritage and go out from the cities to identify our connections to the land, we are more able to find the wisdom that is there.

The Guugu Yimithirr word for “country” is gangga, which literally means “skin of country”. Country is not just about land – it includes everything from beaches, oceans, and mountains to plants. It might be a little hard in an urban context but still you can look around you and see which plants are growing in your area. This will help you know if your area is getting polluted or if there are local plants that are disappearing because of development.

We live in a networked world. You can make use of this to get information about your local environment by sending a text message with GPS coordinates of your location to SMS4Where (4357). The SMS will be sent to the nearest ranger or land manager.

Also, you can track your journeys online at MapShare – and learn about your connection to country and how other people connect through listening to their stories.

Indigenous people have a very strong connection to country and with that they have a strong sense of spiritual connectedness. This is something that developed over thousands of years of living in the same places. We can make use of this spiritual connectedness in our lives by spending more time in nature and putting more spiritual significance into our everyday lives. This will also strengthen our connectedness to the land.

Imagine if we all woke up one day and realized that we are one with the earth – wouldn’t it be a wonderful world then? We just need to let go of our egos and be one again…with nature.

In the urban context, one of the issues that we see is an imbalance between the human and non-human world. We are getting a lot more human influence in our environment than non-human influence. Non-human creatures are here to provide us with services, such as pollination, insect control, and seed dispersal. They are also required for us to survive – they provide food, water and shelter for us.

Aboriginal people have always lived in close connection with non-human creatures so they know how much damage we do to the environment through overuse of resources like land, air, water and animals. They call this crime and it is killing us.

One of the things that they are trying to do is to preserve the rest of the world for future generations by passing on this knowledge. They do not just want a few people to benefit from the rest of them, all Australian people have a responsibility to protect their environments. This is called ‘sacredness’ – it means we all have the right to share in country even if we cannot use it for ourselves.

Aborigines are very aware of their territory and its spiritual significance so they are determined to protect it from developers and government agencies (who want only more development) who want more profit for our country.

The thing that Aboriginal people are worried about more than anything is that they will die before their country dies. When they die, their heritage dies with them.

This means that in the urban context we have to get our kids to wake up now and start thinking about what happens to the rest of us when they die. They need to start looking after each other and learning how to live in harmony with other creatures. It is important for them to remember that everyone has a right to share in country – it is something that everyone can enjoy.


Australia is an extraordinary country. It has many different environmental regions and a diverse range of cultures. In addition, it covers wide areas ranging from the hottest deserts in the world to some of the coldest oceans on earth.

Australian landscapes are rich, varied and iconic to our nation’s identity. They have played and continue to play a central role in shaping our collective history, culture, and economy.

What is missing in recent times is that Aboriginal people are having to move quietly around their land – not because they want to but because they have no choice if they want their sacred lands to be protected forever.

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post