Reciprocal relationships with trees: rekindling Indigenous wellbeing and identity through the Yuin ontology of oneness

Publication Name

Australian Geographer


Studies of Indigenous connections to the environment highlight that reciprocal relationships between humans and the nonhuman world are known to significantly influence human health and wellbeing. This paper builds upon existing approaches to understanding Country from Indigenous and more-than-human geographies, in order to explore the Yuin concept of oneness–an ontological view of relationships which acknowledges the co-creation of wellbeing between trees and people. Attributing sentience and autonomy to plants has been part of diverse Indigenous traditions for millennia, and yet within Western knowledge frameworks, the personification and anthropomorphism in such traditions continues to be viewed as limiting. Taking a decolonising approach, we set aside this deficit model in order to learn and then share what is gained by yarning with trees. We document a journey of the self and the rekindling of the lead authors' Aboriginal identity whereby Yuin knowledge and respectful ways of researching are placed at the centre of knowledge exploration and production. Through a personal journey focused on wellbeing, we show how trees communicate and how they are seen within the self. Accordingly, we demonstrate how the Yuin ontology of oneness transformed an individual's wellbeing, and provides opportunities to heal personal relations with the more-than-human world.

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