New booklet shares Indigenous knowledge about plants with city dwellers or gardeners


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A new booklet, Indigenous plant use, aims to share Indigenous knowledge about local native plants with people living in Victoria.

Research fellow Zena Cumpston, a Barkandji woman, created the new Indigenous plant use booklet to help individuals, schools and community groups in Victoria grow and appreciate indigenous plants. It contains information on more than 50 indigenous plant species, and labels that can be printed, laminated and displayed in the garden.

Cumpston has spent the last two years researching Indigenous perspectives of biodiversity in urban areas. Her work has focused on the south-east region of Australia.

She discovered that Indigenous plant knowledge is not well understood by a wider audience. Yet Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have used plants for nutrition, medicine and technology (such as traps, nets and weapons) for thousands of generations. This knowledge has helped them to thrive as the oldest living culture in the world.

In 2019, Cumpston curated a display of more than 40 000 indigenous plants for The Living Pavilion event at the University of Melbourne’s Parkville campus. This campus was built on the lands of the Wurundjeri peoples, who have been custodians of the lands for more than 65 000 years. The Living Pavilion strived to illuminate the Aboriginal belonging and histories of the Parkville campus and to highlight the campus as a Wurundjeri place, Country that was never ceded.

As part of the display, Cumpston labelled each indigenous plant with the indigenous name first, followed by the Latin. The displays also provided information about the plants’ cultural, medicinal, nutritional and technological uses. The booklet was developed following requests for more information by people who attended the display.

Indigenous plants provide habitat for native birds and animals, which contributes to healthy ecosystems.

The new booklet helps people in Victoria to “learn on Country”, as they grow, smell, taste, see, feel, share and talk about the plants.

Download the Indigenous plant use (PDF 13.2 MB)

Banner image: New booklet shares Indigenous knowledge about plants with city dwellers or gardeners. Image by Flickr/Pursuedbybear C BY-NC 2.0

First published on 5 October 2020.

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