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A transcript from Season 2, Episode 6 of Judith Lucy’s ABC podcast, Overwhelmed and Living, called ‘Are we just completely screwed?’ Starting at 20 mins in.

Judith Lucy:
During my research for this series, I noticed that a couple of notions kept coming up. Firstly, that humanity needs to stop thinking of itself as separate from nature. And secondly, we need to take a much longer view of time.

Australia’s First Nations peoples and indigenous cultures globally have always known these things. They’ve also understood what a word we hear all the time now – wellness – really means. It’s not mushroom coffee. That’s a thing now? Wanting coffee made from a fungus? How about a cup of thrush tea?

Real wellness is about caring for the land and each other. I wanted to talk to Paul Callahan about how finding our own path and realising what really makes us happy can help us care for our communities and our country. Paul Callahan and Uncle Paul Gordon explain this in their book, The Dreaming Path: Indigenous thinking to change your life. Paul’s the final interview for this series, and I think he manages to sum up some of the most important crap I’ve learned. Yeah, sorry, I really should have just met up with him at his local and not wasted everybody’s time.

Paul Callahan:
All the non-Aboriginal people living on this land have a responsibility to care for this place as well. And so as Aboriginal people and people with the knowledge of the land and the story and the ceremony and the song and the dance, we have a responsibility to share that with non-Aboriginal people so they can learn to love the land and care for the land as much as we do.

We read a lot about socio-economic disadvantage of Aboriginal communities, but when you look at the other side of it in terms of spiritual disadvantage, Aboriginal people have a connection to this country and non-Aboriginal people don’t and so they’re kind of spiritually disadvantaged. And if you look at that as a logarithm or an equation, there’s an opportunity for us to come together. And so by us sharing our culture in connection with country that gives non-Aboriginal people an opportunity to connect with this land, and to feel part of this land and to be healed.

And while I say, who it is in the definition of wellbeing, the Western definition of wellbeing is pretty simple; it says a lack of illness. The Aboriginal definition of wellbeing is “I must be well mind, body and spirit. And so must the person next to me, and so must the person next to them, in fact, so must all people in the community, and so must the land.” So in the Aboriginal definition of wellbeing, I can’t be well if every other person in this country isn’t well and if the country itself isn’t well. And then if we all are well, then we’re in a place of better contentment.

So part of sharing our culture is to create wellness for non-Aboriginal people. And because they’re part of this country, because they eat food from this country, because they live on this country, they’re part of this country too, so they don’t have to feel like an outsider. And once people understand our culture and accept our gift of culture and our hand of love and friendship, that’s when we have true reconciliation, where Judith Lucy and her friends and other people that we both don’t know can sit around a fire with me and Uncle Paul. And we are a circle and we are one and we are united and no one’s on the outside. No one’s marginalised. And we all share as equals where no one has to feel marginalised.

Paul, that’s an extraordinary gift that you’ve shared there and I would love nothing more than that. Can I ask you to explain – because it’s obviously a very important part of your story too – what you mean when you write in the book that to find your personal path you need to connect to the dreaming path?

It’s kind of confusing until someone explains it, I guess. So the dreaming path is…when I speak to corporates I talk about it as a corporate vision. So it’s kind of the Aboriginal cultural corporate vision if you like. It says “I must always care for my place and all things in my place”. So when I talked about how we created love and born in love, we’re born in love to care for our place and all things in our place, and that’s the dreaming path. And what the old people say is when we follow the dreaming path, when we’re caring for our place and all things in our place, then we’ll find a place of contentment because that’s the purpose that we’re born for.

And then people might go “Oh, yeah, but does that mean we all become clones and robots?” Well the answer is no. To a degree now, because we’re so fixated on paying mortgages and global economies, we’re more robotic than you could ever believe in terms of Western society. What the Aboriginal society says is, we all contribute to the dreaming path, but we all do that in a different way. We all have different footsteps. We all have different stories. So some of us might be nurses, some of us might be engineers, some of us might be kitchen hands, some of us might be Australia’s leading comedy, people.

No one I know. No one I know, Paul.

And so we all have these footsteps. And what’s important is to look internally and say, “What are my footsteps?” Or another way to think about is, “If I was writing my story, what are I chapters and what would I like to see at the end of this book of my story?” When I’m 100 years old, what do I want it to read? Do I want it to say that I worked harder than everybody else, that I got more stressed than everybody else, that I got crankier at red lights than everybody else, that I accumulated more plastic than everybody else? Of course not. At the end of our story, most people would say, “I can look back and I shared love, I was kind, I had friendships, I had relationships, I did good things, I cared for people, I had time to listen.”

One of the things I’ve been talking to corporates a lot about lately is I get really tired of the term work-life balance. Because in that term work is already getting 50% of what our life is about, and it’s not meant to be 50%. In traditional Aboriginal times, our people did what you would call work a maximum of half an hour a day. They spent most of their day sitting down sharing story, teaching, learning, coaching, loving, doing ceremony, dancing, all the things that we want to do when we’re retired, but then we’re too kind of past it and tired to do it. So we need to get back to life balance. And that’s how we walk our footsteps.

And so our work is an important part of what we do but there’s all these other things. And the really big thing that’s so important in Aboriginal lore and culture is relationships. The research shows that the primary value of feeling good about ourselves and contented in Aboriginal society is the richness of our relationships. Whereas in the Western world, it’s about achieving our goals, usually around material wants, career and power. And so they’re totally different.

Change takes courage. There’s an old saying: people don’t change until they’re sick and tired of being sick and tired. A lot of people go to their graves sick and tired. And that’s such a waste of this precious thing called life.

The chances of a coin being heads or tails is one in two. The chances of winning Lotto is one in six with eight zeros after it. The chances of being born is one in eight with a hundred zeros after it. So it’s a miracle that we’re all born. And we need to think about that, that we’ve been given this special opportunity in this world, to walk our footsteps. Not be a champion, not be the best. Just to walk our footsteps and be our true selves and live a good story. And that’s the thing to reflect on.