Climate and Country Forum

The CLIMATE AND COUNTRY forum brought together First Nations leaders, activists, and researchers to discuss our current environmental crises and the ecological impacts which have continued to unfold from the colonisation of Australia.

The forum expanded upon the themes of WILAM BIIK, curated by Stacie Piper—an exhibition arising from the unsevered connection between First Peoples of South East Australia, their Country, and their Ancestors—to explore the ways in which Aboriginal knowledge and custodianship of Country can lead the way in redressing many of these problems and to begin a process of healing these damaged ecosystems.

Join Gunnai Gunditjmara and DjabWurrung woman Senator Lidia Thorpe; Barkandji woman Zena Cumpston; and Wurundjeri, Dja Dja Wurrung and Ngurai Illum Wurrung woman Stacie Piper, for this stimulating conversation on Aboriginal knowledge of Country, political activism and engagement, and cultural connections. Welcome to Country by Wurundjeri Elder Uncle Dave Wandin.


Lidia Thorpe is a Senator for Victoria, a proud Gunnai Gunditjmara and DjabWurrung woman, lifelong activist and fighter for human rights, social justice and the environment.

Senator Thorpe is the portfolio holder and Greens Federal spokesperson for First Nations, Justice, and Sport.

In 2017, Lidia Thorpe became the first Aboriginal person elected to Victorian parliament, as the Greens MP for Northcote. In September 2020, Lidia took her seat as Victoria’s first Aboriginal Senator in the federal Parliament.

Lidia was sworn in to the Senate holding a message stick burned with 441 marks, one for each death in custody since the handing down of the findings of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1991 and holding up her fist in a gesture of strength and solidarity.

Zena Cumpston is a Barkandji woman with family connections to Broken Hill and Menindee in western New South Wales. Zena works as a writer, curator, consultant, academic, storyteller and educator. Most recently Zena produced a free booklet exploring Indigenous plant use that has been used widely by schools and community groups.

In 2021 she curated the show ‘Emu Sky’ for Science Gallery Melbourne, exploring Aboriginal knowledge of Country and bringing together over 30 Aboriginal community members, sharing their stories, research, knowledge and art works.

Throughout 2021 she worked alongside Dr Terri Janke as a co-Indigenous author on multiple chapters of the Commonwealth State of the Environment Report 2021.

Stacie Piper is a proud Wurundjeri, Dja Dja wurrung and Ngurai illum-wurrung woman, a dancer and educator in the Djirri Djirri Wurundjeri Women’s Dance Group, and volunteers on the Victorian NAIDOC Committee, as the current Chairperson. Stacie holds the position of First Nations Curator for Yalingwa 2021 at TarraWarra Museum of Art.

Piper is passionate about contributing to the progress of First Peoples in Victoria, and she is keen to bring Ancestors, stories, songs, dance and art forms of South East Australia to audiences, making them more visible. She is also active in raising awareness around environmental concerns of this part of the planet. The forest, or as she describes, ‘bush country’ is suffering as a result of over extraction of natural resources, and Piper is aiming to raise awareness around the resulting loss of native habitat for endangered species, loss of biodiversity in the soil, poisoning of waterways, increased wildfires and loss of valuable bush country, which assists in sustaining the planet’s balance. She hopes all people who live here can take on their responsibility to care for Country as her Ancestors did for generations, protecting it for future generations.

This project is supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria.

WILAM BIIK is the second exhibition to be presented as part of Yalingwa, a Victorian Government initiative. Yalingwa is a partnership between the Victorian Government, ACCA and TarraWarra Museum of Art, designed to support the development of outstanding contemporary Indigenous art and curatorial practice. It includes three new curatorial positions and three major exhibitions alternating between ACCA and TarraWarra Museum of Art, focused on new commissions by contemporary Indigenous artists.

Learn more about WILAM BIIK, curated by Stacie Piper.

Please note views and opinions expressed on this recording are those of the panelists, and do not necessarily reflect those of TarraWarra Museum of Art and/or sponsors.

Temporarily closed for exhibition installation. Open again 3 Aug