A very short story about time

Time – it’s elusive so we’re told. Or, time stands still, so the saying goes.

Our sense of time can vary depending on our age, culture and the geological era in which we live.

Within Awabakal culture there is no word for time separate from anything else. To understand time within the context of a living continuous culture existing for many thousands of years, the word to use is: Barayikuwa (burayi-koowa) meaning Earthtime in English. (Listen to sound grab here)

Indigenous people have experienced time within a vastly different context to European or Asian people in Australia.

Munibung Hill is an example of geological and indigenous time. Together they help deepen our understanding of how we are a co-evolving species separated by time but not much else.

We are completely dependent on what is known as deep time, land and earth time – 4.6 billion years – for us having arrived at this present place within universe time – 15.6 billion years.

If time is to be understood as being relative to the speed of light, then it is almost impossible for us to understand our place in time within our current notion of time.

Caught up as we are in the pressures of daily existence, often not acknowledging the past, being so absorbed in the present and so focused on perpetuating existing paradigms into the future, it is as if, there was no tomorrow’s child.
Tomorrow’s Child
Tomorrows Child by Glenn Thomas.

These days we measure time by lifetimes of 25 years. Aboriginal society is an example of the longest living culture having been present in Australia for 2,600 generations (65,000 years).

Compare this with European settlement of 9 generations (230 years) and we get some idea of how non-indigenous ways of knowing, that originated within a vastly different geological and cultural setting, is struggling to adapt to the conditions and constraints laid down within a Gondwanaland context – 7.2 million generations (180 million years)* or a Munibung Hill context – 10.04 million generations (251 million years).

Barayikuwa allows us to take a step back in time, to ask: Where have we come from? What are the consequences of our ways of living? and What direction might we like to chart as the future unfolds?

Munibung Hill is a classic example of:  land and earth time at a local level; our common heritage regardless of our creed, colour, political affiliation or which strand of the human community we identify with; and earth law as the primary reference point from which all other laws are derived (see below)


Earth Jurisprudence is founded on core principles.  They serve as a code of ethics to guide our personal, professional and collective practices.

The following principles are distilled from the practice of indigenous communities, and discussions in numerous forums over 20 years.  An international retreat for practitioners of the Global Alliance of Community Ecological Governance (CEG) further explored these principles and practice. These principles help re-member – that is, restore the memory we have lost.

“It is our responsibility to make these principles the foundation of the new legal system all over the world. The time has come when human laws and Earth laws must be brought together.” (Thomas Berry, Rights of the Earth, 2002)

To transition towards a mutually enhancing presence on Earth, these principles need to be embedded in human governance systems, particularly law, education, economy and religion.

Wholeness – Earth is a single community webbed together through interdependent relationships. No living being nourishes itself. The well-being of each member of the Earth community is dependent on the well-being of Earth. The interest of the whole takes precedence over the interests of individuals.

Lawfulness – The Universe is lawful and ordered. Earth is the primary giver of law, human law is a derivative. Humans can only discover, not make, Earth-centred law.  Earth Jurisprudence recognises life is sacred with inherent value, and Earth has limits – her many gifts, such as water, minerals, land, biodiversity, are finite.

Duty of Care – Humans have responsibilities to care for all members of the Earth Community and maintain the integrity and well-being of the whole Earth Community and future generations.

Rights of Earth – Earth is a living, self-regulating being, with intrinsic value. “Every component of the Earth community has three rights: the right to be, the right to habitat, and the right to fulfil its role in the ever-renewing processes of the Earth community.” (Thomas Berry)

Mutual Enhancement – Relationships within the Earth Community are reciprocal – a cycle of giving and receiving.  For example plants and trees give out oxygen for any members of the Earth Community to breathe in, and we give out carbon dioxide for plants and trees to take in.

Resilience  – The inherent quality of all healthy living systems to grow, evolve and adapt to change and disturbance without losing their coherence.

For more go to: Earth Jurisprudence Principles – the Gaia Foundation

Morris Stuart, conductor of the Central Australian Aboriginal Women’s Choir is an enthusiast for the preservation of indigenous language.  After all he says, when you lose language you lose everything.
   We agree. It’s one way we teach our children. It’s one way we pass on stories.  It’s an essential part of our identity. We must cherish our language and share our stories and learn to respect that each of our traditions can together weave a rich fabric to enlighten the way ahead.                   
             Barayikuwa – welcome to earth time.

We acknowledge the staff at Miromaa Aboriginal Language & Technology Centre, Newcastle, for their assistance in providing us with a unique menu name from the Awabakal language, as part of our public presence on the internet.

Miromaa Aboriginal Language and Technology Centre

*Australian History – Gondwana: The southern super-continent –

Gazing up - the universe beyond

Life on earth is made possible by the unique properties found nowhere else within the galaxy we occupy. The night sky is like a magic ball of glitter except that the glitter in this case is millions of stars in the Milky Way. The Earth is located in the Solar System and the Solar System is located in the Orion Spur. 

Our human story must be firmly grounded in the larger universe story. We must visualise ourselves as being one very small part of this much larger whole

Where we fit in the larger whole (see image), sees us cradled within the vastness of the outer arch:

  • the universe,
  • the galaxies,
  • the solar system (yellow),
  • the earth – our ecological home (green),
  • the social system – human communities with all the cultures and traditions we construct that give meaning and purpose to our presence on the one and only planet that is our home (blue),
  • the economic system – technologies and the stuff we make from the earth utilizing the sun’s energy as the power supply.

There is no ‘away’ on this finite planet spinning around the sun. This is it. We must learn to live within the limits, the boundaries, the laws of the Earth and the larger universe.

We are stardust. We are golden.
And we’ve got to get ourselves back
to the garden.

–  Joni Mitchell