For us the name Gondwana represents the ecologically distinctive nature of the Southern Hemisphere continents, the immense biological lineage of south-western Australia, and our view of people as part of healthy ecosystems.
Gondwana originated as a Sanskrit word, describing a region in central India. In this original use, it encapsulates both people (the Gond, a Dravidian people) and place (vana, the forest). We think ‘people of the forest’ has a good ring about it.
We also feel it helps show our respect for First Nations people globally.
The name was first used in relation to geology in 1872 and soon came to be the name of an original ‘supercontinent’. Gondwanaland later separated into the southern hemisphere continents (Australia, Africa, South America and Antarctica) and India.
When Gondwanaland formed, the evolutionary paths for the plants and wildlife of the northern and southern hemispheres diverged.
Thus, plant families such as the Proteaceae (eg the banksias and grevilleas) and the Haemodoraceae (eg kangaroo paws) only occur in South Africa, South America and Australia and are understood to be Gondwanan in origin, as are marsupials like kangaroos.
Over the 200 million or so years following the breakup of Gondwana, forces such as Australia’s increasing isolation, changes in climate and sea level and other geological events shaped the continued evolution of Australia’s biota, making it remarkably different from that of other parts of the world.
Ancient Gondwanan Diversity
“You will see many things here that contradict your knowledge of life on Earth”
Professor Kingsley Dixon, Curtin University. WA’s Scientist of the Year for 2017.
Some eminent scientists, including Stephen Hopper and Tim Flannery, have suggested that the incredible diversity of Australia’s, and particularly Western Australia’s, plant species is partly due to the long biological lineage – a relatively uninterrupted 250 million years in south-western Australia – and the ancient and infertile soil surfaces that have formed following aeons of weathering and erosion, with fewer major mountain building or glacial periods here compared to other lands.
As such, the name Gondwana is a useful reminder that many of the western approaches to both biological science and land use originated in the northern hemisphere, amongst landscapes and ecosystems very different from those of the Gondwanan derived systems.
We celebrate and affirm the biological importance of the southern hemisphere, of which south-western Australia is an exceptionally rich part, and to continue the development of ‘Gondwanan’ science and land use.
“Link” is a word applicable to many aspects of our work, because we are:
- physically re-linking many valuable areas of bushland, to ultimately re-link whole ecosystems;
- building links between a previously disparate array of organizations and individuals and
- supporting them to work cooperatively, and in so doing build lasting personal and professional links;
- building critical links across many professions, from ecologists to political scientists, from farmers and miners to wilderness preservationists; and
- linking what we’ve learnt from our work with those of colleagues in other Gondwanan countries.
Then there is the strong link we feel for south-western Australia, a link which drives our work. This is a love for country, a feeling of being physically linked to the land that keeps us with no choice but to move forward with our ambitious program.