Brendan Ferguson explores the Martu people’s deep connection to country through a Social Return on Investment analysis.
Eleven people were crammed into the living room of a house in Parnngurr, Western Australia – a Martu community on the edge of Karlamilyi National Park, 370 kilometres east of Newman. Some sat at the table, others were perched on food storage containers or seated on the concrete floor. The kids were told to play outside. This conversation was important.
I passed around a piece of paper on which I had drawn three pictures: a waterhole surrounded by trees, a man in jail and a bundle of cash. The eight Parnngurr elders in the room included the most senior Martu cultural leaders. They were debating, in Martu wangka(language or talk), the relative merits of each picture. Not so much the artistic merits (I hoped) – drawing isn’t my greatest strength – but the value to Martu people of the cultural, social and economic outcomes represented by those images.