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‘Aboriginal Plant Use Trail’ at the Australian National Botanic Gardens
29 Jan 2016
The National Museum’s Indigenous Curator Lee Burgess attended the launch of the Aboriginal Plant Use Trail at the Australian National Botanic Gardens on Thursday 21 January.
The event was opened by Ngunnawal Elder Aunty Agnes Shea who also provided an interesting first-hand account of the use of a medicinal plant called ‘Old man weed’. Aunty Agnes recalled that an Aboriginal man had applied a concoction of the plant to a severe wound on a pet dog that was attacked by an emu. She feared the dog would have to be put down but after a few weeks the wound had healed and it was “right as rain”.
Lee’s involvement in the Aboriginal Plant Use Trail was to contribute cultural knowledge, where appropriate, to the content of the new interpretive signs.
For example, the plant mulga (Acacia aneura) is a relatively well-known central Australian shrub or tree. It is used by Aboriginal people for making tools, weapons, shelters and as a source of food, such as edible gum, mulga apples and witchetty grubs. But few people know that the fine ash from the burnt wood is highly sought-after. It was and still is used in ceremonies, mixed with ‘Pituri’ (native tobacco) and rubbed into body scars to emphasise the scarring.
The original signage was installed in the mid 1970s and gradually replaced from 2013.
The new interpretive signs are certainly eye-catching and, thanks to Lee, contain a little more cultural information than before, making for an interesting self-guided walk.