Three Aboriginal students from Coolgardie in Western Australia’s Goldfield region have made it to the finals of a national Science and Engineering Award.
Rangi Hirini

19 Feb 2018 - 9:52 AM  UPDATED 19 Feb 2018 - 9:52 AM

High school students from Coolgardie in Western Australia’s Goldfield region made it to the finals of a national Science and Engineering Award by using bush medicine found in their community.

David Simeolo, Jeremias Rene Wade and Nyheemah Cox all attend the Christian Aboriginal Parent Directed School, or C.A.P.S, in regional Western Australia.

Their competition project was based on an idea from Nyulnyul teenager, Nyheemah.

“I wanted to do this project because back in my community, I always see my elders make use of local plants for medicine,” she told NITV News.

Ms Cox’s family is from Beagle Bay, in the Kimberley. She said watching her parents, grandparents and other family members use the native plants for medical reasons and it always made her curious to discover more.

David is a Year 8 student and is the youngest in the group, and Jeremias is Year 9. Both boys come from a non- Aboriginal family but do have Indigenous roots of their own.

Jeremias, whose family are Spanish, told NITV News Ms Cox would tell both the boys stories of her own family using plants and it was inspiring.

The Year Nine student said he feels the project can have a major benefit for his community, which is located 558 kilometres east of Perth.

“A lot of people are spending money (on medicine) because people get sick. Bush medicine is naturally grown around Australia and is as effective as modern medicine,” he told NITV News.

He hopes their school project will be able to provide crucial information to others in the community so people won’t be spending so much money at the shops.

Mr Simeolo, whose family is Papua New Guinean said he heard about Aboriginal people using plants for medicine but was surprised when he furthered his research.

He said he joined the project so that they can help people.

The group worked together on their science project, titled “Phyto Chemical Screening and Time Microbial Activity of Maroon Bush, Crimson Turkey Bush and Sweet Potato Leaves” for a few weeks.

Maroon bush, crimson turkey bush and sweet potato leaves have been used by Aboriginal peoples as medicine for a variety of illness.

Their science teacher, Allan Alipio told NITV News he always wanted to get students involved in science competitions.

Like the two male students, Mr Alipio said this project opened his eyes to the benefits of native flora.

“I’ve always known about the benefits of eating sweet potato leaves. Growing up in the Philippines, we grew a lot of sweet potatoes in our backyard.

“Maroon Bush and crimson turkey bush are both foreign to me, and I only read and find out its benefits when my students used it for their research,” he said.

Established in 1981, C.A.P.S is a small school east of Perth.

The school opened under the initiative of the local Aboriginal community and parents, despite Aboriginal students being prohibited from studying beyond Year 10 at that time.

CAPS Coolgardie had a successful science program last year which saw most of their students win in the 2017 Science Talent Search.

CAPS was awarded the 2017 Science Talent Search (STS) Secondary School of the Year, an award never won by a regional school before.