Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Indigenous plant use: a new resource

Posted on 27 August, 2020 by Ivan

We recently discovered a very comprehensive and useful booklet specifically designed for anyone interested in Indigenous plant use, including Landcare and community groups, schools, revegetation practitioners and gardeners. If you don’t have a property or garden, this booklet is still of value, as it aims to illuminate Indigenous perspectives of indigenous plants.

‘Indigenous plant use – A booklet on the medicinal, nutritional and technological use of indigenous plants’ was produced by Zena Cumpston at the Clean Air and Urban Landscapes (CAUL) Hub in Melbourne, which is funded by the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Program. The guide is based on plants from Kulin Country, which incorporates five different aboriginal groups from southern Victoria, and includes many plants that are found in Central Victoria and valued by Dja Dja Wurrung people. By choosing plants specifically from the Country you are on, you will not only increase the plants’ chances of survival but help reintroduce these plants to the landscape and add to the biodiversity of your area.

To download a copy of the booklet – click here

Read on for more information on how the booklet came about.

In 2019, the University of Melbourne was transformed by the breathtaking influx of 40,000 plants native to Kulin Country that literally breathed new (ancient) life into the site. These plants took centre stage at The Living Pavilion, an arts/science event that aspired to forefront the University’s Parkville campus as an Aboriginal place: a place of belonging. The Parkville campus is built on the unceded lands of the Wurundjeri peoples of the Woi Wurrung language group who have belonged to and been custodians of these lands for 65,000+ years.

As part of the plant exhibition, The Living Pavilion’s lead researcher, Barkandji woman Zena Cumpston, used signage to educate people about the different plant species’ cultural and ecological significance. This plant research was so popular that many participants asked how they could access this information after the event and if there was a resource available that synthesised this work. Further, greening practitioners, schools and community groups have been contacting Zena to ask for more information and to discuss their educational aspirations to embed understandings of Indigenous ecological knowledge into their gardens and activities.

This booklet contains edited and abridged versions of the information that accompanied the indigenous plants at The Living Pavilion. We share information about indigenous plant use, including the medicinal, nutritional and technological use of plants (such as traps, nets and weapons) developed over many, many millennia by Australia’s First Peoples. Mostly, we cover widely available eastern Kulin Nation plants, and some edible plants from further afield that can be grown successfully in multiple Australian climates.

All of the plant information has been edited to fit onto labels that you can print, laminate and use in your garden. These labels provide an ongoing opportunity to learn on Country: gardeners and visitors will be able to interact with plants, smell, touch and taste, whilst they learn. This is an Indigenous way of knowing and learning, it is experiential learning: learning through doing, smelling, tasting, seeing, feeling, sharing and talking. The plants are presented from an Indigenous perspective; Latin names are second not first. Where possible we have also included information about the animals the plants benefit, in line with the holistic approaches to the environment so important to Indigenous ways of knowing and being.

Yam-daisy or Microseris walteri (photo by Robert Macrae)



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