Aboriginal people have been using bush medicine as a remedy for generations. For most Indigenous people, they have learnt to heal through natural remedies from their ancestors who roamed the Earth some 60,000 years ago.
This year, the theme for NAIDOC Week is 'Our Languages Matter', and as such, four rangers from the Central Land Council Murnkurrumurnkurru ranger group have collaborated with The ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language (CoEDL).
"The fact that we're incoorporating Gurindji language with our knowledge of bush medicine is a great way to inform young Indigenous people."
Local rangers and Karungkarni Artists have attended workshops in Kalkaringi, in the Northern Territory, to make bilingual posters displaying traditional Gurindji medicines and their uses. Their aim is to ensure Aboriginal languages, culture, and traditions are continued.
The rangers named the bush medicine poster Janga-Wu Punyuk Kaji which means, 'bush medicine that makes you better', in Gurindji language.
Ursula Chubb from Mudbrra country, located in the top springs, was one of the four rangers involved in the project, which she believes is paving the way for the future.
"The fact that we're incorporating Gurindji language with our knowledge of bush medicine is a great way to inform young Indigenous people. At the bottom of the poster it tells you the name, what it’s used for, and how it helps."
“It's important information [to] continue to get passed on, so people know the use of medicine and how to identify plants when we go out bush.”
Ever since Ursula was a young girl, her aunties, uncles and grandparents would share their stories of the local land. Whenever someone in their family was sick, she'd be taught what medicine to collect, how to use it and the right way to use it.
"Our ancestors, when they were little also used to use these remedies so this is common knowledge for Aboriginal people. It is passed on from generation to generation. What they tell us is from what their parents tell them."
The Gurindji rangers collected bush medicine and found several vital remedies that Ursula says helps people heal naturally.
"We found Manyanyi and Malarn - both are bush plants. [They] are leafy plants used to for when we get a bad case of the cold. We boil them either in a tea or use it in the shower. Kupuwupu is a plant used for skin sores, so when any of the young children or family have sores, we bath them with this and it works.
"Kupuwupu is a plant used for skin sores, so when any of the young children or family have sores, we bathe them with this and it works. Tirnung is used for sore throats and to stop coughing, so when you find this plant you boil it and then drink it."
“My sons speak Gurindji and Warlpiri. They speak English too, but it’s important to focus on our languages and our culture.”
Daguragu and Kalkaringi Ranger Coordinator, Andre Marias, says if we don't have Aboriginal projects like this, we lose Australia's history and culture.
“This knowledge could easily be lost and it’s important the information continues to get passed on ... so youth know the use of medicine and how to identify plants when we go out bush.”
For Ursula, Gurindji is her first language. The 29-year-old grew up speaking her language. She learned how to speak English in school. She says for her it's a priority to teach her kids Gurindji, and leave English for later.
“My two sons speak Gurindji and Warlpiri– their father is a Warlpiri man. We just wanted their first language to be Aboriginal. They speak English too, but it’s important to focus on our languages and our culture.”
The Janga-Wu Punyuk Kaji project visits local schools to teach students how to identify bush medicines and their uses. Apart from teaching them how to identify plants and use Gurindji names, the rangers help them understand why Aboriginal knowledge is crucial for the next generation.
“It’s really important to keep bush medicine alive. That’s the only way to strongly represent our culture, we need to pass our knowledge to the young ones and share ways of improving our health from the natural healer, mother earth," Ursula said.
The previous projects were posters of local Jurlaka (birds) and Yawu (fish), which helped people identify important information in both Gurindji and English
The Gurindji bird poster provides information in Gurindji and English about local birds which signal information, birds that can be dangerous, and birds which have favourite foods.
The Gurindji fish poster provides cultural information in Gurindji and English about local fish.
Some 250 distinct Indigenous language groups covered the continent at first (significant) European contact in the late eighteenth century. Most of these languages would have had several dialects, so that the total number of named varieties would have run to many hundreds.
Today only around 120 of those languages are still spoken and many are at risk of being lost as Elders pass on.