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Helping Pilbara Traditional Owners record and share cultural knowledge

In the remote Pilbara region of Western Australia, Greening Australia has been working with Yandeyarra traditional owners to record their cultural use of plants.

Yandeyarra, also known as Mugarinya, is a community and working pastoral station located on the banks of the Yule River within the town of Port Headland. The spectacular Pilbara region, renowned for its striking red earth, is steeped in cultural history and contains some of the world’s most ancient natural landscapes dating back two billion years.

To facilitate the sharing and recording of traditional plant knowledge in the region, Greening Australia Project Officer, Laurinda Timmins, worked alongside senior Yandeyarra community members, experienced Ethnobotanist Vicki Long and long-time Pilbara resident and linguist Brian Geytenbeek to identify and record native plants across the landscape.

Each species’ traditional uses and the cultural stories about the areas where each plant can be found were also documented. The team focussed on native plants that were used traditionally for food, medicine, traditional ceremonies, fibre sources and to make tools and weapons. This included species used to help locate water and other food sources such as edible grubs, bush turkeys and emus.

To engage local youth with the project, the team engaged senior students from Yandeyarra Remote Community School between grade 6 and 10 in data collection. Students used iPads to photograph the plants, make sound recordings of their Elders speaking the Aboriginal names of the plants, and then recorded the names of the plants in local Aboriginal languages including Nyamal and Kariyarra, and in English.

The information collected will be used to prepare a record of each plant as a way for Yandeyarra to share traditional knowledge with community members, teachers, rangers and students into the future.

The project was funded through the Western Australian State Government’s State Natural Resource Management Program.