My name is Aimee, of Maitland, north of Newcastle, I’m a Gamillaroi-Irish Australian living on Wonnarua Country with a suburban permaculture and bush food garden, along with my partner Steve and red heeler Buddy. I’ve been a classical singer, public servant and now sustainability businesswoman. I learn from Traditional Custodians.
In this coal valley by the river Coquun (formerly Hunter) on Wonnarua Country, the air and sky sing as we collect the dishes during our pot luck evening street party. I pick some front-verge herbs, giggling with friends as we walk to a house on our street that shares their dishwasher for party occasions. One of the kids tags along, asking me to tell a Dreamtime story, one of the traditions of these Friday nights.
We have eaten meals of home- and verge-grown produce and bushfood: a rabbit casserole; a delicious Native grain pastry with Quandong and custard filling, and Midyim berry wine. After dinner, home-raised, co-op-made chorizo sausage is shared, as we browse our preserves for trade.
The dishes now on, we arrive back at the Circle as our street’s Friday ritual begins. There is an Indigenous song and a moment for our Earth Mother, before we each share something from our cultures, and express gratitude for the week that’s been. When my turn arrives, my close neighbour, April, who is 30 years younger, asks of the changes across my lifetime. I smile at her warmly as tears sting my eyes. I begin to share my story, the young faces lit with dancing Biochar firelight.
I’ve seen the milkman come, go and return. We had some plastic waste in the 1980s but by the 2000s the world accumulated so much and had such an unbalanced carbon cycle that people were fighting in every direction. Then the Change Fires came in 2019, followed by the Outbreak of Change. This is when people who had never been scared or poor or without work opened their eyes. Were it not for that time, we wouldn’t have had so many referendums. There was a glimmer of hope during the Marriage Equality survey before the fires, but it was the Outbreak and Black Lives Matter protests that catalysed the Great Empathy.
Australia turned to First Nations to help with the land, water, democracy and gender parity. Those with friends on both right and left asked that each side try to understand the other. Divisive elements of all media were suddenly on the outer.
Scientists, engineers, accountants and others started calculating the technology limits and budgets of Our Earth, and millions of sustainable jobs were realised. Political party business models and donations changed. Uni students no longer specialised in their education, learning Design Thinking, Permaculture and third disciplines, and had ambitions of creating resilient small businesses by graduation.
Everything that we love now — the rituals, direct democracy, local school technology hubs, the Bushfood Commons, Fairshare markets, smart grids, share shops, share cars, seed libraries — came from the Great Empathy. Across the connected Earth people used what they had and made new ways, bringing us together with this very Circle tonight, after a strange time apart.