Western Sydney University is part in the Community Garden Festival consists of a collaboration centred on an Indigenous led regenerative burn of a grass tree in southeast Australia. By connecting with all life and cultures, it foregrounds the importance of Indigenous leadership in healing nature and also healing humanity’s relationships with nature. With sound and music as witness, this is evidence that can disassemble and reassemble the Western cannon that hyper-seperates humanity and nature. The burn was led by Indigenous ranger Dean Freeman at Pierces Creek Forest in the Australian Capital Territory, with composer Kim Cunio recording the sounds, and scholar Jessica Weir assisting with the text.
Participants in the collaboration are Jessica Weir, Dean Freeman and Kim Cunio.
Dean Freeman is a Wiradjuri man who has worked for government land management authorities for over 25 years, a Divisional Commander on the fire ground and a maker of coolamons and other Indigenous cultural materials. Dean collaborates with Seedbox consortium partner based researcher Jessica Weir.
Dean leads the cultural burning program being developed at the Australian Capital Territory Parks and Conservation Service in partnership with people from the First Nations – the Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples – who have a particular interest in fire. Wiradjuri share geography, kin, law, custom, and language relationships with Ngunnawal and Ngambri, and Dean has close Ngunnawal and Ngambri family ties. In 2021, Dean won the Tumut NAIDOC award for ‘Culture on Country’, the ACT NAIDOC award ‘Caring for Country’, and the Dorothy R Taylor Award for Best Paper in Australian Geographer with co-authors Bhiamie Williamson and Jessica Weir.
Professor Kim Cunio, Head of the School of Music at the Australian National University (ANU), is an Australian Iraqi Indian Mizrachi Jewish composer, and a performer and researcher interested in old and new musics in making sense of our larger world. Kim collaborates with Seedbox consortium partner based researcher Jessica Weir.
Kim Cunio is Grammy Long listed, a recipient of the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s Golden Manuscript Award, and his compositions have been played at the United Nations, The White House, and concerts and festivals globally. His recent symphony of climate change responded to the sounds of carbon dioxide leaving the British Antarctic Survey’s Ice cores. Under Kim’s leadership the ANU School of Music is investing in a deep and restorative relationship with Australia’s First Nations.
Jessica Weir (PhD) is a Seedbox consortium partner based researcher at the Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University, and a descendent of English and Scottish colonialists.
Jessica Weir's research practice is informed by over two decades of collaboration with Indigenous leaders. She seeks to support justice for both natures and peoples by ameliorating colonial and imperial privilege in land and water management, natural hazards, climate change and academic practice. She is a founding member of the ecological humanities group (2007-2013), now practised as the environmental humanities. She collaborates with Dean Freeman on a cultural burning research project funded by the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre.
In addition to Dean, four Indigenous and non-Indigenous rangers from ACT Parks and Conservation Service assisted with the burning and were present during the recording. We acknowledge the support of Ngunnawal Elder Warren Daley who wanted to attend but had prior commitments.