Being in the bush is at the core of our family’s identity and traditions; it informs the choices we make about how we live our lives. My husband and I met on fieldwork in the red desert of Australia, where our families had separate but parallel histories of exploration and life in the bush. This history is part of what has fuelled our interest in the natural world, connected us to the Indigenous people of the area, and created a passion for adventuring in the bush. Ultimately, it also led us to each other.
In our work as anthropologists, we have worked extensively with Aboriginal groups in northern Australia to document their relationship to and knowledge of the land and its resources. We have both spent many years ‘in the field’, on bush trips in extremely remote parts of the country. We have also spent many years, together and separately, in parts of the world such as Indonesia villages, Pacific islands and the Caribbean. We attempt to integrate these experiences into our parenting and in the values we inculcate in our children.
Some years ago we moved from northern Australia to a large bush property in the Snowy Mountains so that our increasing number of children could grow up with unlimited access to nature.
Here our four children climb boulders and trees, learn to track wildlife and light campfires, listen to laughing kookaburras and barking owls and the mimicry of lyrebirds. They hide in wombat burrows , build dams in creeks, and grow food in our garden. They experience close-up the changes wrought on the land by the seasons, weather patterns, and by our own interventions. They test and grow their own physical capabilities and explore the topography of our landscape.
Having children can be viewed as an impediment to adventuring; for us it has only deepened the imperative to get out there. It often increases the challenge, but always enhances the joy. Together we spend our family time camping, paddling, fishing, skiing, riding, hiking, or just being in the bush. We hope that the life we give our children nurtures an affinity for and understanding of the natural world; ignites wonder and excitement, and offers them a source of inner peace.