Going bush: Why nature is the greatest teacher

Great podcasts for parents and carers

Thu 8 September 2016

14 mins

For our Screen Free Challenge, Kinderling Conversation’s executive producer Sally Knight goes for a bush walk with Dean Kelly, Aboriginal Community Liason Officer with National Parks and Wildlife Service. He works at the Royal National Park in NSW, so he can share all about this week’s NATURE theme.

He’s a descendant of the Yuin people, saltwater people on the NSW South Coast on his father’s side. On his mother’s side he is from the Wailwan people, the stone country. 

In our fast-paced modern life, Dean believes that going for a walk in nature helps us “remove the build up of negative energy that we absorb day-to-day in society.”

He says he “teaches kids to enjoy the bush, to have fun, and to respect it.” It also means remembering that for Aboriginal people, “Nature is our hospital, our supermarket, our McDonalds and KFC, our hardware store – everything we need to survive is there.”

For Dean, “life’s too short to be stuck in a room! Nature is the greatest teacher of all. Get out in the big classroom.” 

Here's Dean's top nature tips:

What to take

Wear good walking shoes and take a jacket, a backpack, a bottle of water, some food, a mobile phone, and a compass.

“You never know how the weather could change in the bush. It might be sunny and then the next minute a big storm might blow up with wind and rain,” warns Dean.

Remember you’re visiting someone else’s home

“The trees sense that you’re there. All the little insects, the lizards, the reptiles, the mammals know you’re there and they’re watching you. It’s their home you’re going into, so when you go in there, acknowledge that and look after it while you’re there,” says Dean.

Spot a wallaby or a lyrebird

“If you’re quiet enough and patient enough, you might see a wallaby or a kangaroo hop past you a couple of hundred metres up the track,” says Dean.

If you’re bushwalking in South-Eastern Australia or southern Tasmania, you might spot a lyrebird. It’s a flightless bird with brown feathers and a secret super power.

The lyrebird can mimic ANY sound including a motorbike, a truck or an aeroplane. Dean explains that in Yuin language, the lyrebird is called ngaran ngaran, and is known as “the one who speaks all languages, the one who holds all ceremony and dance.”

See red gums and wattle trees

The Sydney Red Gum (Angophora costata) is a strong, tall tree with mottled red bark and windy branches. Indigenous people used the tree to carve wooden dishes known as coolamons and the sap of the tree to numb toothaches.

Aboriginal people once used the Coastal Wattle (Acacia longifolia) for food, fibre for making string and soap.

Dean says that the flowering trees tell the people that it’s a good time to catch eastern rock lobster and also that the whales are migrating, “In Indigenous culture, the whales were once elders on the land, and are now traveling a big, long story out in the ocean or gadu, following a path that the old people used to walk on. 

Look after nature and it will look after us

“It’s going to be there forever if we look after it and only take what we need. It’s important to teach others so that they become part of it and look after it too. This is something that we share and that will bring us closer together,” says Dean.

Do have a favourite bushwalk, waterfall or waterhole? Take a pic and upload it with the hashtag #screenfreechallenge #kinderling

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