Landscapes of Our Hearts: Reconciling People and Environment

Matthew Colloff

Landscapes of Our Hearts: Reconciling People and Environment
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Landscapes of Our Hearts: Reconciling People and Environment

Matthew Colloff

On this ancient continent, waves of people have made their mark on the landscape; in turn, it too has shaped them. If we look afresh at our history through the land we live on, might Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians find a path to a shared future?

An epic exploration of our relationship with this country, Landscapes of Our Hearts takes us from the Great Barrier Reef to the Central Desert, the High Country to Canberra’s Limestone Plains. It is a book of hope and offers the possibility that a renewed connection to the landscape and to each other could pave the way towards reconciliation. It will change the way you see this land.

‘A book as full of mystery, fascination and beauty as the landscape it describes. Compelling, multifarious and essential.’ - Don Watson

‘We are locked in a dance with landscapes - moulding their contours as they shape our souls. This book will take you into the heart of Australia’s relationship with the natural world. Put it in your backpack, hike to your favourite place, and drink in its wisdom.’ - Andrew Leigh, MP


Mathew Colloff works at the Fenner School of Environment & Society at the ANU, and prior to that was a research scientist for twenty- three years at the CSIRO. So, although this book is a very personal meditation and reflection on the meaning of landscape, it is also a multi-layered exploration of non-First Nations peoples’ relationship to this country, with First Nations peoples’ relationships and knowledge of country as an essential thread moving through the narrative. Colloff asks the question, ‘Can the rediscovery of landscape and history truly help make real the prospect of national understanding and reconciliation?’

‘Landscapes of Our Hearts’ refers to the places we explored as children, the places that were important through generations (whether in Australia or distant landscapes) and the many places that come to hold significance for us throughout our lives. Through history, science and impressive experience in the field, Colloff shows the many ways we relate to country.

Australians living in cities and urban landscapes are stepping up to save their green spaces and contribute to liveable cities, but Colloff knows from his years as a researcher that, of the non-First Nations people in this country, the remaining farmers have accumulated the most knowledge of changing landscapes and climate. He has worked with them and other growers who have changed their farming practices to regenerative ones – sharing knowledge, building community and recognising that as the landscape changes, so must we.

We cannot live without nature – we need nature; nature doesn’t need us. Yet we continue to allow greed and self- interest to destroy our environment. As Colloff writes, why wouldn’t we listen to and learn from Australia’s First Nations peoples? They have successfully lived through climate change already on this continent. Through listening, respecting and sharing stories of connection to landscape, we gain knowledge and hope to act for our shared future. This book was a timely and fascinating read.

Margaret Snowdon is the art & design book buyer at Readings Carlton.

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