Willie Brim is of the Bulwai people and is a Traditional Owner of the land around Kuranda, which is situated just outside of Cairns in Queenslands Top North.

My name is Willie Brim. I am a Buluwandji man of the Bulwai Nation here in Kuranda. And what I do here is I try and implement cultural knowledge and education to the kids of the future and to the kids of today. By doing that, I maintain weekly contact with the school through my little ranger group I’ve set up up here. And with that, we implement traditional knowledge.

And realising traditional knowledge is not a thing of the past, it’s a knowledge that’s worth holding onto because of its values of the forecoming future that we see. So the knowledge that we possess we see as the survival strategy of the future and the knowledge that we possess is simply about the trees and the system that we lived here, prior to European occupation.

Ever since Europeans have hit this land – just on 200 years down south, up in this area just on 100 years… My family is only 90 years experience with the system. So… I look at the way the system has laid its imprint on this land. And it’s not a very pretty sight because a lot of our animals have disappeared forever, a lot of our fishes from our waters here have disappeared forever, a lot of our plants have gone. So what we do to protect the rest of this system is to implement traditional knowledge. ‘Cause traditional knowledge, I find, is the only answer and key to the survival of this country.

We actively do fire management out on our drier countries, we get younger children involved with this so that knowledge is passed through, from our elders right down to the young men. Knowledge is a practical thing that works hand in hand with the way we look at the country. The animals live on the country and the way that we manage the country is no different to a man managing his backyard, except our yard was Australia. And a lot of parts of Australia has been not managed now by my people. So a lot of it suffers. So that education factor of land management, trees, grasses, the right time to be burning, not to be burning – all this has been attached to a system here that my people have learned to live with and to perfect it. And to perfect it, we actually gave each other totems. Like, you could be a tree species or I could be an animal. So your lifetime job was to look after and ensure the spirituality of that tree or that animal – what’s there – and protect it.

When you look at an area like where we are now it’s hard to believe the same amount of people occupied this land before the coming of the Europeans. In this area there was just over 100,000 Aboriginal people. But no impact on the land. Today, 100,000 Europeans living in the same area and have a look at the impact. I mean, there is a great, great difference there in understanding of where you’re living and what you’re living with. So all of that understanding is Indigenous knowledge, Aboriginal knowledge.

Now, the forest system is such a provider of many, many things. I mean, we can get fuels from – not wood, fuel, as in saps and stuff like this – from our forest. We get foods, we get glues, we get medicines. All the things that were available to us in the past now we have to revisit. Because, today, if you need those sort of things they’re only in certain areas like a supermarket or a pharmacy. Where as this was the supermarket and the pharmacy. And this is what I’m teaching the kids.

You know, there’s a lot of knowledge that we ignore because we’re living in a modern world. But get away from the town, get away from the city, step back into the bush, this is where that knowledge is so important. And because that knowledge is… As I said, it came from our people, who occupied this land here for well over 40,000 years. And a knowledge of a way of living, of understanding with nature and with each other – it was so crucial.

So these are the new teachings that really should be implemented, not like the teachings that were delivered to me about Captain Cook and all those characters of the past. It’s amazing, as time goes on, that we find out that the simple knowledge of the earth is knowledge that everyone really wants to have.

We are part of this community and I will endeavour to do my best as a traditional owner of this land to ensure the kids are given a fair go at their education, whether they’re non-Indigenous as well. I mean, kids are kids and we all live under this one system now. When I say system – Mother Earth. So it’s a job for our children of the future to utilise Aboriginal knowledge again to protect this earth.