Torres Strait Islanders have come through many challenges. We know that we will face many more. It is in these moments; we look to the guidance from our two sources of knowledge - our Elders, who play a vital role as our knowledge custodians and our academics – our knowledge collectors. These two knowledge traditions are critical to our awakening, a deepening of what we know intuitively – that we are profoundly connected to the Universe, and everything within.
We also hold the view that our knowledge matters, that our knowledge systems offer an important contribution to healing our relationships to the world. Through Ilan Style, we understand the impact of modernity on the health and wellbeing of our people, our other-than-human kin, and our planet. We have come to value traditional ways of knowing, saying, being and doing, which has profoundly shaped our sustainability responses through our brand and our philanthropic work. We know through our involvement with First 1000 Days Australia, that it has become increasingly difficult for young people to learn about our intimacy of connection to the natural world from their parents and grandparents. Not only have our lives become busy, but our knowledges have also been repressed, and our connection to the natural world has been compromised. Accessing the ecological knowledge of Elders has been plagued by the influences unrestrained commercialism, unlimited technological drive, and the myth of progress. These influences have pervaded modern education, the media, cultural norms, and recreation making it hard to locate ourselves firmly in the Torres Strait Islander worldview. Even as we send our children to schools that support their achievement in the wider world, we need to remember who we are and where we come from. Our Elders remind us of that. Our ancestors understood implicitly the intercommunion with all living and non-living systems in our place. Our ecological knowledge of the Torres Straits remains unsurpassed. We access our culture through our Elders, and our culture finds expression in poetry, in music, in stories and dances, and in the formations of our personal and communal ways of life.
Ilan Style acknowledges our Elders, the centre piece of our society, those who we return home to to reflect and remember. We acknowledge there is a greater intelligence that guides and holds us, and this greater intelligence has come from a communion with all-there-is. Our Elders are our family, they support us mediate the known and the unknown, they have a depth of ecological knowledge that can save the world and they and guide us in how we come to understand we are all connected through ceremony, philosophy, through being part of Island ecology and through their creativity.
Do they have all the answers? Probably not. But do they have ways of thinking about issues that are before us, of sorting information and of pursuing an outcome that benefits individuals and communities? Absolutely they do. The National Aboriginal and Islander Day of Celebration (NAIDOC) 2023, is focusing on our Elders. Across every generation our Elders have played and continue to play an important role and a prominent place in our communities and families. They are the trailblazers, nurturers, advocates, teachers, survivors, leaders, hard workers and loved ones. At Ilan Style, we pay respects to the Elder’s we have lost, and to those who continue fighting for us across all our nations. We pay homage to them and ask our Elders for their blessings in all we say and do. #IlanStyle