Start Small, Think Big

Updated: 3 days ago

By Natalie Grube

The Michael Franti song “Start Small Think Big” is a favourite in our home. When Michael’s deep tones flow into our bloodstream, we are gently reminded to embrace the small steps that lead us to our destination. Both mais letl salan (my kids) identify as autistic and life can be anxiety-inducing for them at times. As an adult who is grappling to make sense of the current world we live in, I can only imagine how confusing life is for them right now. In our family we need daily reminders that everything can be accomplished more effectively if we ‘start small’ even if our needs feel huge. For me personally, this song has become an anthem of peace, helping me to traverse a crazy past year and prepare for what lies ahead.

My name is Natalie Grube, and i’m a Norfolk Island woman of Pitcairn descent. Alongside my beautiful friend Rose Evans, we launched the Norfolk Wave Campaign, which aims to support the Norfolk Island people to co-create a sustainable future for all who call the island home. The campaign idea began as a wee thought in Rose’s mind, which led to an inquisitive email to me. Ultimately, Rose and I secured a grant through the Australian Marine Parks, and our ideas began their migration into reality. I had studied film making with the intent of bringing my skills back home to protect and document our Norfolk/Pitcairn heritage, so I knew instantly that this project was aligned to my life goals. What began as a small idea has now morphed into a bona fide movement, with tendrils branching out into the eco-zeitgeist on Norfolk, Australia and the wider world.

Back in 2014, as a mother to a one and three year old, I had packed my bags and moved to Byron Bay to study film. The kids and I lived in one room, sharing with a family daycare, with only three suitcases of personal effects. To the outsider this move may have looked a bit crazy, but to my heart, I was walking closer to my soul purpose and it felt like the most sane thing I could have done. It was a very challenging few years, as I worked until 3am many mornings, walking up at 6am with the kids. I ran on mostly love and adrenaline, knowing that ultimately I would be able to contribute to the community and homeland that had given me so much. I now attribute many of my wrinkles to those years, though I learned a very valuable lesson - that we can do hard things. Hard things that can be made easier by thinking big, yet starting small.

The Norfolk Wave campaign includes a social media movement, two films, a community sculpture, local events and more, though the overarching premise of the Norfolk Wave campaign is to empower, educate and resource the community. We envision that Norfolk’s community will play a pivotal role in helping other Pacific Islands and communities around the world to transform their waste habits, by sharing with them our working template. We want to breathe new life into the school sustainability resources for young children, and create exciting new-age tech platforms to engage young minds and share Norfolk’s progress with the wider world. We want to cease all ocean-outfall of our waste, support local industries, boost local food and water protection, and encourage the local economy to thrive.

My heart begins to race when I think of this campaign’s potential, because it’s both exciting and daunting! Exciting because I can see a sustainable future for mais letl salan, their homeland and heritage. Daunting because at times I feel like I’m not talented/qualified/energised enough to accomplish this massive mission, and if I may be honest - there are some days when I feel that any effort we make is just a drop in the ocean. Sometimes I fear that our beautiful Earth is past it’s tipping point, and we are on a downward slope to doomsday. These moments of futility are usually when I reach for Michael Franti’s sweet soulful voice, coaxing me into slow and steady action, reminding me that all positive social change begins with passionate individuals who take small and manageable steps. Then, when I think of all the passionate, bright and invested salan we are blessed to have on Norfolk, I know that we can achieve anything we set our collective minds to.

After speaking with Norfolk residents about the island’s current state of waste management, I felt the deep sense of shame that many of us feel about our individual habits, and the collective habits of the community. I think it is important to acknowledge our flaws, though I believe our attention should now flow towards a future vision for auwas hoem (our home), whilst leaning on the wisdom of our ancestors who were masters in the art of miekduu (resourcefulness).

In June 2021, as part of the Norfolk Wave campaign, well-known film maker and environmental activist Damon Gameau (That Sugar Film, 2040) visited Norfolk, alongside world-class surfers and environmental protectors Dave Rastavich and Lauren Hill. Luke McConell, the founder of Revolve Your World technologies, also made his first visit to Norfolk, to research the possibility of a new recycling system for the island. They all fell deeply in love with Norfolk and her people (of course!) and felt strongly that the Norfolk Island people, particularly the traditional custodians of the land and sea, have much to teach them about sustainable living. They were blown away by the local expertise, though felt like everyone on the island who are rooting for change could benefit from a cohesive movement forward. Our aim with the Norfolk Wave Campaign is to be the perfect platform for that united voice, where we can combine traditional knowledge with new innovations.

I often think about the written accounts of George Hunn Nobbs, the school teacher and pastor on Pitcairn, who described those moments of deep grief as the community sailed away from Pitcairn on the HMS Morayshire in 1856. They were bound for Norfolk Island, an unknown land. It would have taken all the faith and hope in the world for them to not crumble, as the last vestiges of Pitcairn faded on the horizon. In spite on their grief, the Pitcairn community remained united, bravely looking ahead into an uncertain future. They were taking a calculated risk, planning ahead for their future generations.

The Pitcairn community had a difficult journey to Norfolk, with rough seas, crippling seasickness, a very ill baby and grave fears for their elderly. In their grief, sickness and fear, one could expect tensions to mount, and fractions to occur between the community; however, the opposite occurred. Sailor George Curgenven observed the community on this journey and their subsequent arrival to Norfolk, and wrote "They were all alike, none were better than another consequently there was no jealousy or hatred and money is not wanted because all those that are able, do their share of the work and of course get their share of the proceeds. In fact they are just similar to a large family”. Another account observed that it was difficult to discern which Pitcairn child belonged to which parent, because they all cared so richly for one another.

The Pitcairn community knew the value of community in raising their children, and that it takes a cohesive vision to make courageous changes for the betterment of the whole. If it weren’t for those brave first steps of my Pitcairn ancestors, I would not be sitting here writing to you today. We have so much to learn from them, moving into the future.

Through the Norfolk Wave campaign we are asking that you, as a local or visitor to the island, start making small changes towards a more sustainable Norfolk. We offer you a beautiful vision of Norfolk’s future; a large encompassing vision of self-sustainability and community empowerment - and then we ask you to look within your own lives to see what small steps you can make that will feed into the big picture. How can you miekduu (be resourceful), mainaut (be mindful) and miekhies (act now) so that you positively affect the future of auwas hoem (our home) and letl salan? Change is rarely easy, and changing old habits requires dedication, though it is our mission through the Norfolk Wave campaign to assist you every step of the way.

Imagine you could hold Norfolk in your hands. Imagine turning it around, like a beautiful fragile shell. From this perspective you can see the tiny tractor pushing our waste into the sea, watch the miniature freight planes departing our shores packed with our landfill, and also see the Norfolk community, like busy ants, going about their daily lives. As humans we often think we are too small to make a big difference - but how often do we see small creatures unite to accomplish amazing feats? We are all living cells in the body of Mother Earth, and the choices of our individual lives directly affects the health of the greater Earth body. You cannot be alive on this planet and not make an impact. You are bigger than you think, and more influential than you know. Your individual choices matter, because you matter.

Just like those intrepid Pitcairn salan who left behind their home comforts for the chance of a brighter future, we have this exciting opportunity to set a new course together. Auwas letl salan are relying on our courage, so let’s combine our many small steps forward and leap into a greater future for them!

Sending you love on your waste-reduction journey,


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