Landscapes of Our Hearts by Matthew Colloff

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.