Loving Country, Sacred Australia

Words by Hank and D.D. Tyler

Elders and the Laura Indigenous Land and Sea Rangers contemplating responses to ongoing pressure from mining companies.

Academic, farmer and award-winning author, Bruce Pascoe and artist, writer and researcher, Vicky Shukuroglou are co-authors of Loving Country: A Guide to Sacred Australia. Last month they gave a presentation at Edendale Farm about Loving Country which describes 19 regions and their cultural and ecological significance to Australian Indigenous peoples.

Bruce, a Yuin, Bunurong and Tasmanian man born in Melbourne and Vicky, of Cypriot heritage, show the value of our diverse cultural contributions to reconciliation in Australia

In 2018, Bruce invited Vicky to collaborate on creating an interpretive travel guide of sacred Australia, with a focus on indigenous narratives. Bruce saw Vicky’s awareness of Country combined with outstanding photographic skills and excellent writing ability as the perfect contribution for a sensitive perspective. Bruce added that Australian publishers had become more interested in material which expanded understanding of Aboriginal culture.

A selection of Vicky’s eye-catching photos from Loving Country and from her personal experience on the road, were continuously projected on a large screen behind the presenters.  One image depicted two hunters of a goanna lizard. Vicky mentioned that the goanna was caught, then released as too small, leaving it to grow for a future hunt.

Vicky was involved in lengthy conversations with elders sharing their experiences of special places. 

Vicky Shukuroglou and Bruce Pascoe

In each of the 19 chapters of Loving Country significant geological features, fauna, flora and Aboriginal lore associated with the landscapes are detailed. Vicky’s exquisite images provide meaningful scaffolding for the words. Wide landscape views and numerous formations of rocks assist the reader in ‘being there’ while the close views exhibit informative detail and pleasing and artful awareness of design highlighting pattern, shape and colour. Vicky’s considered approach to all her subjects was acknowledged with Loving Country being short-listed for the Australian Book Industry Awards Illustrated book of the Year and Booktopia’s 2020 Beautiful Books.

In response to a question from the audience about the result of the Voice Referendum, Bruce replied “We have to keep a positive attitude and be prepared for much hard work in the future.” Vicky added that “We need more conversations with elders.”

For local action in care of Country, visit nillumbio.org

Loving Country can be purchased at the Eltham Bookshop or borrowed from the Eltham Library.