Money/Wellbeing in the Australian Outback

Welp, my study abroad experience has officially come to an end. DON’T FRET – I still have three required blogs to crank out, all of which pertain to my AUS experience. Also, I must figure out what I’ll do with this blog after I return home in two days (p.s. I’m home now and am just getting around to publish this).

This post highlights an idea brought up by Simon Ling, Reporting Australia’s guide at Carnarvon Gorge, regarding money/wellbeing.

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One of the gorge’s many creeks, fed by the Great Artesian Basin

I encourage you to check out my post covering basics of the gorge. Being part of the Carnarvon group – in charge of producing journalistic content on Carnarvon for Reporting Australia, I worked hard getting to know the place before I left the States.

So back to the idea – Our last hike at the gorge, which was a solid nine hours, took us to a handful of geological destinations around Carnarvon – the most significant (imo) being the Art Gallery.

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Art Gallery is a slight misnomer. Rather, what you see are symbols, which played vital roles in Aboriginal ceremonies

Within the first hour or so of the hike, Simon stopped us by a tree to explain its species’ relationship with Aboriginals. Turns out, Aboriginals consumed its fruit/seed as a contraceptive method.

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Tbh I forgot the name of the tree – Photo cred: Rachel Robillard

Simon, while explaining just how efficiently Aboriginals lived among their environment, then asked us how we would feel if America imposed a limit on the number of children we could have (similar to China’s policy). I forgot how exactly, but a few students found themselves in a somewhat heated debate regarding those of low socioeconomic status, race & politics in America…in the middle of a hike in the outback, in front of the rest of us & Simon.

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Without spending too much time addressing it, I didn’t think the debate itself was too significant/important. Here, I’m just referring to the actual debate, not the low socioeconomic status, race & politics aspects.

Soon after everyone calmed down, Simon continued talking – now about socioeconomic status. He cited a study that concluded: After reaching a household income of $74,000 (I think), a four-person American family’s wellbeing is capped – As in, that family’s wellbeing is expected to increase as its income does, until the wellbeing maxes out at a $74,000 income.

On a personal note, Simon mentioned he lives below Australia’s official poverty line and has a fairly high wellbeing – which I can vouch for.

What Simon said (LOL Simon says) about income/wellbeing is one of the most-impacting lessons I’ve taken from Reporting Australia. It’s not something that instantaneously clicked within me either. Rather, Simon’s words complimented something I’ve learned during my entire experience abroad (Reporting Australia & my travels in NZ prior).

What I’m talking about here frankly has to do with money. Money and what it really means.

Growing up in a working-class American family, I always imagined I was supposed to grow up to go to college in order to get a job so that I could work my way up the job ladder to become successful in terms of money & status.

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And no, it’s not that my parents explicitly taught me to imagine life like that. I think it has more to do with the cultural/social climate I was exposed to, growing up. Money is highly valued everywhere; but I’d argue America is one of the places it’s valued the most.

For me, I think pop culture was the main influence on why I thought I needed to be successful in a material sense. Media pertaining to music, film, TV lays heavy value on wealth. It’s extremely easy to grow up, thinking that’s what should make you happy.

Due to things I’ve discovered throughout this experience abroad, I’ve realized just how much I don’t want money to own me. I acknowledge, of course, money is essential and unfortunately will dictate decisions I’ll make throughout life.

I guess what I’ve really come to *cents* with is that I’ll make money to live, but not live to make money.


K last thing, I promise

Since processing this revelation – which seems so basic now that I’ve been writing about it for so long, throughout the trip, I’ve developed this new aspirational thought.

My experience with the Great Barrier Reef, while staying on Lady Elliot Island, showed me just how much I love scuba. Especially after my dive, which was on the second-to-last day on the island, I began seriously imagining a future in the scuba industry.

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I’m on the right, attempting to have a convo under the sea – Photo cred: Rachel Robillard

I started picturing myself working as a dive master/instructor somewhere in paradise, and being completely happy.

I think everyone has similar thoughts at times – desiring to live a simpler life in paradise; though for me, this scuba thought is still tickling my fancy and making me really consider it. Perhaps since I’ve been super exposed to these ideas regarding income/wellbeing, I’ll start to take dreams like this more seriously.

Aboriginal Genesis & More

Mary Graham, a lecturer and Kombumerri person (Aboriginal from Gold Cost, AUS) discussed Aboriginal culture with my class Tuesday, May 22nd. During her talk, I learned about Aboriginal genesis stories & Aboriginals’ relationship with the environment.

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Mary Graham

Land Made Us

Graham was given permission by her Aboriginal peers to share the following Dreamtime story – Many of which are sacred. I’m confident 90% of the below is accurate according to what she said heheh (*nervous laugh).

Approximately 15,000 years ago, there was nothing but land on a flat Earth – no flora nor fauna. Around that time though, life forms began to arise from the land. These beings took the forms of megaflora & megafauna (enormous plants & animals). The flora & fauna shaped the land and each other through their own personal dramas (adventures, battles, etc.).

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An example of megafauna

The last life form to emerge from the land was a proto human. Just like they did to the land and each other, the flora & fauna helped develop the proto human.

With time, the megaflora & fauna returned home as normal-sized plans & animals came to be. At that time is when life started.

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Aboriginal Dreamtime story artwork

Although variations in this story arise among different tribes, the notion that land created plants & animals, which in turn created man, remains consistent as a major theme. In Aboriginal culture there is no God, heaven nor hell.


How to Address Climate Change

Graham spoke a good deal on effective ways in communicating climate change. I assume most of these methods bare effectiveness especially in the Aboriginal community. From what I understand, according to Graham, understanding the science is perhaps less important than the following:

  • Accept uncertainty

Graham said it’s important to realize anything is possible and although one may feel strongly about his/her theory, it’s vital to recognize others theories – even the unthinkable ones. She mentioned Aboriginal culture is non-judgmental and all perspectives are considered valid.

  • Mental preparedness

Also essential is being psychologically strong in the midst of environmental disaster. Graham said along with being able to cope during a hurricane, tsunami, etc., one must be resilient when dealing with aftermath.

During her talk, Graham said Aboriginals don’t believe in faith, just a psychology of life. For some reason, this has stuck with me.

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Study abroad group & Mary Graham – Throwing up our horns Photo cred: Rachel Robillard

‘Till next time