Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are a rich vein of history, knowledge, innovation and culture that demonstrated excellence across a large country in a variety of environments. A large piece of the development of this innovation and excellence was the many journeys on country.
Taking the time to travel country meant moving at a speed and distance that allowed mob to take in the smells, tastes, sounds and climate changes creating a rich source to draw maps, story telling, identity and culture from.
I’ve seen a simpler version when people take the time out of their everyday lives and go to the beach. Their ability to smell the air, get in touch with the elements around them, track the changes in weather, tide and conditions, notice small critters in the rock pools. When asked about their day they can recall in vivid detail the experience of the day.
This goes far deeper with ATSI people around the country with tens of thousands of years of experience built into their identity it shapes the way they interact with the everyday. This everyday experience is constant connections back a critical part of ATSI culture and identity and as travelling country has become more difficult our spirit of efficiency and innovation has seen an emergence of new ways to breathe life into ancient connections.
Cycling is providing that efficient, innovative and culturally appropriate method of travelling country although at a greater speed and over a greater distance but the speed and distance is still a level to engage wholly with country and those around you.
Bikes and cycling have provided a freedom, access to country and culture that many ATSI people have never experienced in regional and urban settings. The ability to travel country and a healthy pace, engaged with the environment, quiet enough to see wildlife and travel far enough and to remote enough locations to experience sites, stories of the land and its people.
Cycling cultures not only initiate a greater access to land it also is seen as a game changer in the regional and urban setting providing a safe, cheap, efficient means of transport to school, work, community meetings etc. Data from around the world demonstrates the use of cars for a majority of trips under 10km a major contributor to family budgets and ever more time poor families.
The power of seeing the liberation and sense of achievement of school age kids getting themselves to school, an apprentice able to get themselves to worksites, a university student able to get to lectures and work without battling traffic and scrapping together money for petrol and parking, a family riding to the park on the weekend avoiding the grid lock.
In many of the programs we have implemented over the past three and a bit years a universal conversation has been central to the entire remote and urban communities uptake to cycling. ATSI have long histories with cycling back to the old mission days. I am yet to find an adult ATSI who does not have fond childhood memory of bikes or a child who remembers working on a flat or building/rebuilding a bike with family. These universal memories not only build a sense of community but also form the foundations for the positive uptake of cycling in what can be at times a challenging environment in the regional towns and cities in Australia with growing pressures on roads.
It is the strong foundations of family and community that we have built our cycling programs aimed to engage all of our community in new ways of thinking and moving to continue our strong legacy of custodianship over the land and the ever expanding ancient culture.