This has expanded greatly since coming to New Zealand, and learning how much the Maori language, embraces the natural world and that the word Kaitiakitanga
- means guardianship and protection.
Her first understanding came to her as a child, walking and observing the bush/nature near her home in Australia. Then as an adult making a difference
to her community, she started to glean how ‘as in community - as in nature’. She saw that we can’t disregard any of our spheres or scapes, especially
our soundscapes. To do so is to ignore a fundamental part of our connection with our nature. We need diversity for harmony and health.
So as a scientist and an agronomist lecturing in biology and its interconnections, she immersed her deeper self into nature the natural order and the web
of all life. Here she found out about our inter relationship with the earth, and also the mineral kingdom and in fact - with all biota. That the vegetable
and animal kingdoms were more than a symphony of living form, texture and pattern. But more - that everything is harmonically coupled to the natural
ecology, and that within the biosphere there is an added frequency of sound that can both enlighten, heal and inspire. This is where Fiona is putting
her focus today.
Fiona’s original training is scientific, having completed both a Bachelor of Agricultural Science at Adelaide University in 1986 and a Post Graduate Diploma
of Agriculture at the University of Queensland in 1988. She has worked as an agronomist, lectured in Biology, Botany and Environmental Science and
worked for the Department of Conservation in Australia as an education officer.
However, the more I delved into this interview the more I enjoyed what Fiona was conveying - as she migrated from her scientific self over to her artistic
understanding of showing that in nature, everything is connected. The web of life is integral to our survival as a species.
Originally from South Australia she as a child spent a good deal of her time connecting with the bush and biota of the hills that surrounded the city of
Adelaide. That later in life, when she studied the soil and botany she realised that diversity was so important to retain the nuance and balance of
The effects of ‘Development.’
She says that when man, takes out big chunks of the ecosystems - by broad spectrum spraying or even clear felling of trees or planting monoculture crops
- we are taking a big slice of life and area - out of the natural system. However, to mitigate this later on - can become fraught with challenges.
So to minimise this from the very beginning, would be a very good forward thinking strategy.
With large cities especially in summer in Australia, like Melbourne and Sydney they become ‘heat islands’ but when we go away out to the bush and get under
the canopy of leaves - we feel the instant coolness - hence we have to have trees in all cities … essentially greenbelts.
Fiona mentions that nature in the cities is very much seen as ‘lip service.’
Relationships - nature and community.
Now living in Whangarei, in Northern NZ - she has been teaching - but she comes back to - ‘relationships’ and who we are as a community and how our natural
She belongs to the organisation - Child Friendly Cities as part of her work in Whangarei - that if we can design a city that is safe and there are places
for children to play and they get to experience nature - then that city will be healthy for everybody.
Connection and Purpose
If you are connected to something bigger than yourself and you have a purpose and you can aspire to something that brings you forth into the future - then
life becomes kind of cool - because of the sense of belonging …
Working and Teaching With The Less Fortunate
Today, In Whangarei there is a wonderful experiment of working with people who have in many ways missed out on belonging in an extended family - sort of
way - and that through playing music and being part of an orchestra - so to speak - they see themselves as part of a movement that opens them up to
joint harmonies and a sense of belonging. It is validating everyone for the part that they are playing in working in unison for the betterment of the
whole. Listen …
Fiona also integrates Natural Philosophy into her learning modality and that of Viktor Schauberger - known as the father of ‘water dynamics.’ Where the
sound of trickling or running water can create a soothing natural ambience that allows people to relax into a realm where industrial sounds are left
Fiona has cheerfully integrated the indigenous knowing of NZ Maori of Aotearoa. She also talks warmly about Maori and Māori tikanga (the Māori way of doing
things) as in learning the language (te Reo) she is continually immersing herself into a very profound knowingness and connection that is also very
holistic as well. She sees herself as being very privileged to participate and learn and receive a Diploma in Maori and see and experience this cultural
gift in action. Be it in waiata (song) and poi dance, (synchronised use in each hand of a small ball on a string, - whilst singing) and weaving and
She finds that Maori cosmology - lore and their very holistic understanding of their connectivity to Mother Earth - Papatuanku, has really opened up her
world. Especially coming from a university education with its reductionist and mechanistic viewpoint of lifeless and dead matter.
That around our planet she said there are so many indigenous earth based cultures who have not only a grounded understanding of nature - but intuitively
that can align with the ebb and flow of the homeostatic life force that is embedded within nature.
She says we have to make the effort by embracing and recognising and listening … to what nature is telling us.Especially Te Reo Maori (learning
the Maori language) that since coming to NZ she truly finds how amazing the language is - that so much of Te Reo is premised on the living earth and
She endorses teaching Te Reo Maori in schools because it has such a profound connection with nature and the world at large - like Kaitiaki tanga. (Guardianship).
Fiona posits the idea that when we learn the Maori language - that as an oral language - it has another quality she finds lacking in English in that it
goes beyond function as the English tends to do - and carries with it - and speaks to the heart - as well as function.
With Kaitiaki - it speaks to the being-ness of something - that English just cannot quite grasp.
She said that since coming to NZ she has grown more personally - that NZ because it is a verdant country, with more rainfall too - it can offer this quality,
when you abide by natures ways.
That this growth via learning from the Maori language and of their cosmology of a living planet and the sacredness of nature - lifts her spiritually. That
as a scientist she identifies with it wholeheartedly - especially in shifting from old thought patterns and family patterns and transforming her being
and who she is in the world - especially in supporting her family and moving into the next generation.
Connection with the Giant Kauri Trees
Kauri - wananga.(Learning) Waipoua Forest Northland. The iwi - Te ara-ra, are ‘kaitiaki’ of the forest - that the Kauri tree, is also linked closely to
the Maori creation story. She encourages people to visit but first research Kauri before they even go to the forest ….
She talks about Maori Myth and why Kauri in some ways turns upside down the creative story.
Also the problem of Western society - medicine in using sanitisation to obliterate all germs and with that the good bacteria too. That as a society we
are blanket killing so many single cellular bacteria - that it is all coming back to bite us solely because Western medicine is unable to understand
the web of life, as above, so below. That the soil is a mass of micro-organisms of mega trillions - yet we ignore their benevolence at our peril
She talks about being with children - that all we have to do is be who we are - not like someone else. That in her learning about connectivity and collaborating
and cooperating in a ‘wananga’ and an open classroom environment - wonders can happen.
Other Topics Covered
Spending time deep within healthy old growth forest - how does it feel to immerse yourself in there among these ancient trees and the stillness ?
What are the health effects when living beside a main highway - with car and truck sounds causing desensitisation and increasing stress levels …
Industrial society is programming us to tune out, become more desensitised and not allowing open doors and windows to let the wafting fragrances of flowers
or bird song to enter.
We as a society have to make sure that we have ‘rights’ to live inside a healthy soundscape, where peace can prevail allowing us to heal our being.
She makes the statement: It’s not how do things look - but instead - how does it sound?
Maori have a way to learn from each other, its called:
Tuakana teina where trained siblings teach younger siblings.
Older brother - teachers younger brother, older sister younger sister going on - or even sister - brother - called a scaffolding system of support.
Other subjects covered
Artists - what they bring, is they are a bridge from the unseen to the seen and the physical world. We need to encourage them.
Home schooling came in as a plus ….
These was much more in this interview and I sincerely suggest that you have a listen to Fiona, who is someone entirely devoted to teaching and have children
learn that we are all part of a greater community.