Walking on country
In 2005 the ‘walking on country’ event involved about 90 Indigenous men, women and children walking along two routes totalling 180 kilometres across the West Arnhem Land Plateau in terrain that had not been visited on foot for thirty or forty years. Wamud Namok, whose Dreaming included the warddewardde, the ‘stone country’ marked on maps as the West Arnhem Land Plateau, had left his ancestral lands where he had lived off ‘kangaroos and honey’ (Cooke, 2012, 146). The land had remained empty of human habitation from sometime between then end of WW II and the 1960s. Wamud, who had walked across the plateau as a teenager, helped plot the walker’s routes with a GPS as he hovered high above the stone country in a helicopter. He could show the walkers the ‘right’ places to camp and disentangle the cross cutting family connections of the clans of the rock country. This was more than a cartographic venture it was an attempt to reinvigorate the landscape, part of the Caring For Country movement. Wamud had, “cried for the emptiness of the plateau – the smokeless horizons of the early dry season, where once lines of smoke indicated people going about the management which controlled the late dry season wildfires and helped maintain the remarkable biodiversity of the rock country” (Cooke, 2012, 147). The Caring For Country movement is all about personal geographies. It relies on intimate knowledge of country and on accurate inventories using the latest mapping technologies. It sees Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples living on, working on and caring for the lands and seas they own and manage.