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I sincerely, humbly, and respectfully acknowledge the traditional custodians, makers and carers of the unceded lands, waterways and skies of the Brayakaulung people from the Gunai Kurnai Nations, where I work and reside. I recognise the privilege of being a guest and immigrant in this ethereal country and furthermore, recognise the ongoing political, geopolitical, and sociological struggles to regain ecological, creative and food sovereignty, integrity and self-determination over what we call "home". I wholeheartedly recognise how this deeply affects our relations, understanding, care and appreciation of First Australians in our everyday activities, our care for Country and its bio-diversity, and in this instance, the representation of First Nations Art, artists and creatives in Gunai Kurnai (Gippsland) followed by the rest of so-called "Australia". I acknowledge that these lands, waters and skies have always been the rightful home to these outstanding First artists, designers, and creatives and I am very grateful to be allowed to share this opportunity to create art and share ideas, amongst the many great first artists of this nation. I would like to take this time to express my eternal gratitude, love and uttermost respect to the elders: past, present, and emerging as the quintessential carers, storytellers and makers of these lands. And respect and encouragement to the uprising youth to continue to carry on the fight for sovereignty and recognition of the knowledge of the Country for generations to come. I want to conclude by graciously extending this acknowledgement to any other First Nations, Torres Strait Island and Pacifika representatives who may come across this exchange of words. And concludingly, to remind fellow Gippsland folk, by-passers and guests to care and look after Country the way it has looked after us and has been looked after by the first ancestors before us. To accept and welcome the profound advice and divine stories of the ancestors, to protect and care for all ecosystems, stories and art great and small.
This euphoric complex of land, water and skies we call home always was and always will be First Nations land.
Juan D. Rodriguez Sandoval
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