Wednesday, 1 June 2022

'Be still and listen'

Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann
Aboriginal activist, educator, artist and 2021 Senior Australian of the year

This came through on my Facebook timeline. I thought it was worth sharing. It resonates with me. The pace and noise of modern life disturbs me. I love open spaces, the sea, nature and it's creatures - time away from other humans. Most people exhaust me. But I have sat alongside Aboriginal people in silence and it feels absolutely right. I can sit in silence - but I can't do this with my own tribe. Our First Nations people have a lot to teach us, and most people are not listening. 

"My people are not threatened by silence. They are completely at home in it. They have lived for thousands of years with Nature’s quietness. My people today recognise and experience in this quietness the great Life-Giving Spirit, the Father of us all. It is easy for me to experience God’s presence.

When I am out hunting, when I am in the bush, among the trees, on a hill or by a billabong; these are the times when I can simply be in God’s presence. My people have been so aware of Nature. It is natural that we will feel close to the Creator. Our Aboriginal culture has taught us to be still and to wait. We do not try to hurry things up. We let them follow their natural course – like the seasons. We watch the moon in each of its phases. We wait for the rain to fill our rivers and water the thirsty earth…

When twilight comes, we prepare for the night. At dawn we rise with the sun.

We watch the bush foods and wait for them to ripen before we gather them. We wait for our young people as they grow, stage by stage, through their initiation ceremonies. When a relation dies, we wait a long time with the sorrow. We own our grief and allow it to heal slowly.

We wait for the right time for our ceremonies and our meetings. The right people must be present. Everything must be done in the proper way. Careful preparations must be made. We don’t mind waiting, because we want things to be done with care.

We don’t like to hurry. There is nothing more important than what we are attending to. There is nothing more urgent that we must hurry away for.

We wait on God, too. His time is the right time. We wait for him to make his word clear to us. We don’t worry. We know that in time and in the spirit of dadirri (that deep listening and quiet stillness) his way will be clear.

We are river people. We cannot hurry the river. We have to move with its current and understand its ways.

We hope that the people of Australia will wait. Not so much waiting for us – to catch up – but waiting with us, as we find our pace in this world.

If you stay closely united, you are like a tree, standing in the middle of a bushfire sweeping through the timber. The leaves are scorched and the tough bark is scarred and burnt; but inside the tree the sap is still flowing, and under the ground the roots are still strong. Like that tree, you have endured the flames, and you still have the power to be reborn.

Our culture is different. We are asking our fellow Australians to take time to know us; to be still and to listen to us."


  1. A truly beautiful statement. I have always wished we modern humans on earth could live and love the earth the way the early native populations did (and still do). How did we fall so far that we can't even recognize the vital importance of that which sustains us?

    1. Yes. The process of 'civilisation' has been a mixed blessing, but in the end looks like destroying us because we have gone so far from our roots. In many of the worst ways, civilisation hasn't fundamentally changed us because humans still act like 'savages'. Just look at Putin.

  2. Dadirri is a beautiful concept. A dear friend of mine taught me never to force anything, that what is going to happen will happen at the right time. It is advice that has served me very well

    1. Yes it's a valuable bit of advice for sure Kylie. Not always easy to follow.