Science and Spirit – a journey of environmental history and traditional stories in Bellingen

Mark Graham and Uncle Micklo Jarrett present science and spirit in Bellingen.


SCIENCE and Spirit: Stories of Gumbaynggirr Country, an evening of conversational knowledge and wisdom, brought together two of the Coffs Coast’s most enthusiastic environmentalists; Gumbaynggirr language teacher Uncle Micklo Jarrett and local ecologist Mark Graham.

The sold-out event on 5 August at Cedar Bar & Café in Bellingen, was organised by Lisa Siegel from the Centre for Ecological Learning (CEL), in collaboration with the Coffs Coast Regional Science Hub (CCRSH), and supported by Inspiring NSW, a NSW Government initiative that brings science and popular culture together.

Mark, with his lifetime of scientific study and some 40 years living in the Coffs region, and Uncle Micklo with his deep connection and wisdom in Gumbaynggirr country and stories, delivered an important and enlightening conversation about the ecology/geology of the Coffs Coast, and how this is connected to Gumbaynggirr stories and culture.

Astonishing is a word Mark uses often, justified by his subject – Gumbaynggirr country.

“It is amongst the most abundant and diverse parts of our continent.

“The Gumbaynggirr land’s nature is globally distinguished by all sorts of astonishing natural and cultural elements,” he said.

Talking of Gumbaynggirr people, Uncle Micklo explained their way of coexisting with nature.

“One of Gumbaynggirr People’s philosophies was to keep life going, and to make it better.

“The way they did this was not to threaten the existence of anything on the planet and respect all life.

“Our stores go back thousands and thousands and thousands of years.

“These stories tell us how to coexist on the planet,” said Uncle Micklo.

Mark’s 40 years of insights into the science behind what makes this country tick, interwoven with Uncle Micklo’s stories from the Dream Time, sparked their connection and brought them together.

“As a scientist I like to share some of the insights that support Gumbaynggirr wisdom, stories and practices and to look at a future, uncertain, but if we get it right it will be truly remarkable.”

Uncle Micklo shared stories of how the emu and platypus came to Bellingen in Dream Time; how the waterfalls came to flow down from the mountains and into Bellingen; and how the Split Solitary Island was made.

They spoke of totems, trees, eco systems pre-dating the extinction of the dinosaurs and what you hear when you sit in silence.

Stay in touch with future events of this kind by visiting the CEL website at




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