Quietly spoken Dr. Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr, captured my attention in her ‘2021 Senior Australian of the Year’ acceptance speech, when she spoke of the greatest gift to our nation. She named ‘dadirri’ as that gift. Dadirri (da-did-ee) is a term from the Aboriginal peoples of the Daly River region, referring to the ‘deep spring’ in all of us and the ability to tap into it. ‘Inner, deep listening and quiet, still awareness’ is required. Miriam-Rose assures us: ‘The contemplative way of dadirri spreads over our whole life. It renews us and brings us peace. It makes us feel whole again…’ This renewal extends to healing from grief and other forms of pain we encounter. Whereas she finds her stillness by a riverbank and in other natural spaces, it can be found in the city too, as we listen quietly to one another.
Although my roots are Anglo-Celtic, I resonate with Miriam-Rose. I respectfully practise dadirri and lead others to do so too, in bush settings in or near Lane Cove. It is harder to slow down and find that deep, inner spring when engaged in city life – but so very important. It is an antidote to rushed lives, allowing spiritual wisdom to surface that can otherwise be missed. ‘Be still and know that I am God’ (the Bible, Psalm 46:10) is a treasure I have long respected from my Christian tradition. We struggle to ‘be still’ at our own peril. So many of us have lost the ability to ‘simply be in God’s presence’, but Miriam-Rose tells us that Aboriginal people feel close to their Creator easily.
Does Miriam-Rose go too far in describing dadirri as ‘our most unique gift’ and ‘perhaps the greatest gift we (Aboriginal peoples) can give to our fellow Australians? There are gifts of understanding the Australian bush that indigenous people possess, which could be utilised to reduce bushfires, preserving water sources and so much more. Yet, I suggest this wisdom has come from this same deep source within, originally. Quiet observation of this land and its inhabitants over thousands of years, observing its response to challenges, combined with a deep inner knowing, has created a unique depth of wisdom. Let us respect and seek that wisdom from Aboriginal people and learn to engage it for ourselves through the practice of dadirri.
Quotes from Miriam Rose Ungunmerr can be found in their full context at
Standing above the clouds on a Nepalese mountain was sublime. Our party had climbed from sea level over several days to this point, making it even more special for the exertion expended. The wonder of that wild place is etched into my being. Surrounding mountain peaks poked through the clouds, creating a surreal landscape reminiscent of islands in a frothy sea. Times of wonder such as these, are spiritual experiences, which I attribute to a Creator who revels in beauty.
Eco theology was a recent topic of study for me, focusing on the relationship between God and ecology. It is a relatively new, and increasingly urgent topic, to inform a practical religious response to benefit our planet. A motherly role, that seeks to nurture, protect and restore the created order, is suggested. One that listens to incorporate the wisdom of indigenous people, who have lived lightly on the Earth for thousands of years. One that hears the suffering of the most affected peoples on Earth, (who have contributed least to the problem) and seeks solutions with them. One that seeks to work together with scientists and all who stand for our Earth and its creatures.
Given the vast destruction industrialised humanity has wrought on our planet, a new world view is needed. We are a co-dependent part of the whole of creation, rather than mere utilisers of its ‘resources’. Some of our dependencies have become apparent while others are still to be revealed. We humans are a needy composite of creatures anyway! Our microbiome of bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses protects us against pathogens, breaks down food to release energy, and produces vitamins.
Recognition of our role to nurture and tend our planet as a co-dependent creature, naturally leads to lifestyle adjustments. Consume only what we need and use everything acquired. (Indigenous people kill an animal and use it all, nose to tail). Choose local, minimally processed and packaged goods. Recycle as much as possible. Walking, bike riding, using public transport or even carpooling reduces our carbon footprint. Political activism to keep carbon (e.g. coal) in the ground, rather than the air, may begin to have an impact. Stand with those communities already disaffected by global warming e.g. in low lying Tuvalu (see www.unitingworld.org.au/paradiseandpain ) and Torres Strait Islands. Encourage creatures native to your area to thrive, by providing water and safe homes for them. Start a vegetable garden. Join our walking groups!
Embracing our wild connection to Earth and Creator enables hope and healing for us too. Is there a way you can begin now?
The articles here are currently written by Liam McKenna, Lane Cove Community Chaplain.