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Good Reads Review: The Dreaming Path - Indigenous Thinking to Change Your Life by Paul Callaghan and Uncle Paul Gordon

Paul Callaghan's The Dreaming Path
Paul Callaghan's The Dreaming Path

Put this simply: you must read this book, especially if you are an Australian.

Many people struggle to connect with First Nations people, and it is a complicated reason why. In today’s world that seems to be going ever faster, Australia is a country with a rich tapestry of people from all around the world, a place that can misunderstand, misrepresent, or completely reject the way of thinking and way of life of the world’s oldest culture that once spread far across this land.

In our journeys of self-discovery, we often talk about the need for mindfulness: being present, connected, and engaged with ourselves, the space around us, and the people and creatures among us. For me and my experiences with Indigenous culture, now more than ever such a way of thinking seems relevant to our times if we give ourselves the chance to understand and engage with it.

To those reading, this book is your way to do that: to learn and engage with the world’s oldest culture.

I was lucky enough to hear from Worimi man Paul Callaghan as he spoke with Wiradjuri/Wolgalu man and former NRL star Joe Williams on Booktopia’s YouTube channel, and in that discussion, they talked in depth about the creation of The Dreaming Path.

Inspired by the conversation, I got myself a copy, and was utterly blown away: Paul talks about similar challenges in his life, but more importantly, how reconnecting with Country, culture, and First Nations experience brought calm, self-love, and assurance into his life. 

He divides the book into eight sections, covering caring for Country and the importance of story, relationships, love and humility, learning, developing resilience, healing from the past, finding contentment, and leading.

In all of these sections, he gives a thorough analysis of the values First Nations peoples set, how their processes come together, and how they lead to long-term happiness. He sprinkles in many Indigenous stories within the book, highlighting the value of the Lore, why it matters so much and the value of preserving it, and what can happen to you if you stray from it. 

It turns out that tens of thousands of years of culture knows some things, and its lessons are poignant for our lives today.

As I made my way through this book, I was stunned by the fact that at its core, First Nations peoples thrive on the gift of the present: being in the moment, being thankful for Country, and the happiness that comes from your brothers and sisters, be they human or otherwise.

Paul is joined throughout the book by his co-author, Ngemba man Uncle Paul Gordon. The connection between the two emerges later in the book in a beautiful story, but Uncle Paul’s inclusions complement Callaghan’s chapters beautifully. Uncle Paul speaks succinctly, with purpose and meaning. His words are filled with knowledge, and you hang on to everything he says.

This is a book about a rediscovery of a culture that, quite frankly, seems more necessary now to connect with than ever, even beyond the current political context of the aftermath of the Voice referendum. Callaghan has done the oldest culture in the world justice: it’s a book about learning, seeing anew, and appreciating the beauty in the world around you. 

A conversation needs to happen in Australia about how we treat our First Nations people, but what both Paul and Uncle Paul have done is craft a book that allows you to understand. It breaks down the barrier between our chaotic 21st-century world and culture thousands of years old, filled with meaning and driven by a love of all things.

Every Australian needs to read this book. Take a trip down The Dreaming Path, it is intensely rewarding. 



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