Kwinana teen’s bond with country

Headshot of Indigo Lemay-Conway
Indigo Lemay-ConwaySound Telegraph
Djai Hunter
Camera IconDjai Hunter

This year’s theme for NAIDOC Week is Heal Country, which calls for protection of the land, sacred sites and cultural heritage.

The Telegraph sat down with Djai Hunter, an inspiring teenager aiming to help save WA’s jarrah wood forest.

At just 16, Djai is a “proud Aboriginal sister” of the Bard, Bardi-Jawi, Nyul-Nyul, Kija, and Jaru-Wilpirri tribes, and has already added the 2021 LyriK Young Person of the Year and the CSIRO 2019 Indigenous STEM awards to her belt.

“I have always had a huge passion for medicine and science and over the last few years participating in different programs such as the Mining in the Lands camp under Curtin’s STEM outreach programs, its made me realise how much I actually want to help our environment and ecosystem,” she said.

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“I am planning a project in the hopes of making a positive contribution to the rehabilitation of the jarrah wood forest in the South West region of Australia.”

Djai said she had discussed this idea with her mother a few weeks before finding out this year’s NAIDOC week theme was Heal Country, but it worked out to be “perfect timing”.

Djai Hunter
Camera IconDjai Hunter

She said the project would be about the “coming together of both the elders and youth from all nations” to spark conversations on saving the forest from the global wood trade and ran “hand in hand” with the concept of “Heal Country”.

“To me, this theme means the celebration of the value of spiritual connection we Indigenous people have to the land, air and waters of our country,” Djai said.

The aspiring scientist said Healing Country was about acknowledging the challenges that lay ahead to repair the damage done to the environment and “work with nature instead of against” it.

“Heal Country means looking forward as to what we can do to protect the natural ecosystem of our land and to keep that special and unique bond we have with our country,” she said.

Djai urged other Indigenous people, young and old, to get involved in Healing Country.

“I think more involvement with the community from us Indigenous people would be amazing, ” she said.

Djai plans to go to Curtin University to study either environmental engineering or medicine.

“I see myself starting my personal STEM education projects with Indigenous students and non-Indigenous students in connecting STEM education with ancient cultural ways, traditions and practices,” she said.

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