Importance of Plants to Aboriginal People

The ACT region has a range of habitat types such as grasslands, rivers, lakes, forests, swamps and woodlands. These provide different types of food, medicines, tools and other resources to Aboriginal people. The seasons also offer a range of plants to eat. During summer, the small sweet fruits of the Cherry Ballart were eaten. In spring, young fern fronds grew and were eaten. Traditionally, it was the role of women and children to collect plants and hunt small game. Digging sticks, woven baskets and wooden bowls or coolemons were their tools of trade.

Photo of Xanthorrhoea plant

A photo of the Grass Tree (Xanthorrhoea australis) is shown above. Grass Trees are very slow growing with long, grass-like leaves. They grow in dry sclerophyll forest on stony slopes and have flowers in spring and after fire. Aboriginal people had a variety of uses for them. Their flower spike was soaked in water to make a sweet drink. The soft white leaf bases and the growing point of the flower stem were eaten. Flower stems were used to make a base for a fire-drill to start a fire. Some grass trees produce resin which was used as a glue to make weapons. You can see Grass Trees on the Xanthorrhoea Trail at the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve.

You can learn about other examples of plant uses by Aboriginal people by attending an Aboriginal guided walk. Visit the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve website or Murumbung Yurun Cultural Tours for more information.

Please respect Aboriginal heritage sites and objects. It is an offence to damage, disturb or destroy Aboriginal heritage places and objects.