Original Published Date: 
Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Full article published on SBS Voices.

Associate Professor Jeanine Leane is a Wiradjuri writer, teacher and academic from southwest New South Wales. She is the recipient of two Discovery Indigenous awards through the ARC, ‘The David Unaipon Award: Shaping the literary and history of Aboriginal Writing in Australia’ (2014-2017) and; Indigenous Storytelling and the Living Archive of Aboriginal Knowledge (2020 -2024). Dr Leane's first volume of poetry, Dark Secrets After Dreaming: AD 1887-1961 won the Scanlon Prize for Indigenous Poetry. She has also published widely on settler representations of Aboriginal Australians in literature, teaching Aboriginal literature and Aboriginal writing as an important site of personal, national and collective memory.

Dr Leane has contributed to a NAIDOC Week essay series inspired by the 2021 theme 'Heal Country’, elevating the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers. 

'When you change something from a living subject of conversation constantly in dialogue with their surrounds – the animate landscape and their children, the people living on Country, and make it an object of information you are starving it slowly of cultural nourishment,' says Dr Leane.

'When you take away someone’s name you don’t just take away a word. You take away spirit – heart and soul. When you change language from one that names all things as living to one that makes all things, things only, it causes diseases, chronic illnesses, ongoing injures and sometimes even kills the things that were once living through their names.'

'That’s what happened here when the invaders came permanently to our shores in 1788. They stole lots of things – our lands, our waters, our languages, our children, our dignity, our freedom, our birthrights to live on the Countries our Creator Spirits made for us.'

'Our countries – Wiradjuri Country where I was born; Ngunnawal/Ngambri where I lived and worked, raised my children for thirty years; Wurrundjeri Country where I now live and work, are all living bodies. They have blood, arteries, veins, pulses, bones, limbs – arms, legs, elbows, knees, shoulders, feet, hands, fingers, toes that flex, bend and move as one like a body. And organs – like hearts, bellies, hips, wombs, breasts. Countries have souls and minds.'

Photo credit: 

Associate Professor Jeanine Leane. Credit: Tori-Jay Mordey.