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Banatjarl Bush Medicine Bush Tucker Garden – RIG News Oct.2012

2012 November 2
by anthea
Banatjarl Ladies Opening

Celebrating Culture and Healing

Banatjarl Bush Medicine Bush Tucker Garden

The Banatjarl Women’s Council held the grand opening of the Banatjarl Bush Medicine Bush Tucker Garden at King Valley on October 11. Over 100 people attended the celebrations that included the opportunity to join Elders and Jawoyn Women Rangers on a tour of the garden and the plants in it during the day.

Feature picture: At the celebrations, from left to right:  Esther Bulumbara, Diana Bruce, Roslyn Weetra, Mavis Jumbiri and Jocelyn McCartney

The Banatjarl Bush Medicine Bush Tucker Garden is a key part of the family healing and resource centre that the Women’s Council has established on traditional Jawoyn land at Banatjarl (also known as King Valley) approximately 40km south of Katherine. The gardens have been designed for educational purposes and to provide a wide range of plant materials to make into bush products. Bringing together many traditional plants in one place, the gardens are an important place at which Elders and others can pass on knowledge and skills to younger generations through camps, events and women’s “talkfests” that are held at the centre.

The Banatjarl Grup and the healing centre that they have established are built around a vision of cultural revitalisation, sharing and healing. It’s hoped that the garden will enable young people to learn more about their culture, bush tucker and bush medicine and become stronger in themselves. Sharing with guests from different communities from Australia and overseas, and with non-Indigenous women, through special open days and events, are all a part of the Banatjarl Grup’s vision.

The People and Partnerships behind the Garden

The Banatjari Women’s Council was formed in 2003 in response to Jawoyn women’s call for a focus on family, women and healing. It was renamed the ‘Banatjari Strongbala Wumin Grup’, a kriol name, to recognise the council as a group of Indigenous women from many different tribal and language areas, all sharing the language of kriol and passion for a culturally strong, proud future for themselves, their families and their communities. Banatjarl members are drawn from ten communities in the Jawoyn region and include: Barunga, Wugularr (Beswick), Manyalluk, Bulman, Weemol, Kalano, Binjari, Rockhole, Katherine and Werenbun.

The ‘Banatjari Strongbala Wumin Grup’ is part of a multi component Women’s Development Project, which began 5 years ago and is part of a collaboration between The Fred Hollows Foundation and the Jawoyn Association. Every component of the project is under the control of Jawoyn women in Katherine East and is based on the premise that strengthening cultural identity and increasing self-determination will result in positive health outcomes. The Women’s Development Project has produced many outcomes, including the much loved Kukumbat gudwun daga – ‘Really Cooking Good Food’ cookbook that many RIG News readers may be familiar with.

A key part of the Banatjari Bush Medicine Bush Tucker Garden story is the publication of Jawoyn Plants and Animals – Aboriginal flora and fauna knowledge from Nitmiluk National Park and the Katherine area, northern Australia, 2005 (see article by Glenn Wightman, RIG News – August 2012).  Presenting ethnobiological information in Jawoyn language and English, this book has encouraged two-way research about and documentation of local knowledge and language. The book is an invaluable tool for local people both to preserve and to promote their plant and animal knowledge, and in various ways it has helped to inspire the Bush Medicine Bush Tucker garden.

In 2010 the Banatjari Strongbala Wumin Grup Council commissioned a consultant to help design and establish a useful plant garden and orchard, the outcomes of which can be seen in the garden today at the healing centre along with the report Banatjarl Useful Plants and Bush Tucker Garden.  The report presents the garden design, maintenance plan, and a detailed listing of plantings, propagation methods and plant uses (with common names and those of four local language groups for each plant). The Report is an excellent resource and may be obtained, by request, from the Fred Hollows Foundation.

About the Garden

The garden plan appears to include some sixty different plant species! The plant species selected have been identified by the Banatjarl members and their uses include bush tucker, medicine plants, fibre for weaving, colour for bush dyes, plants for other arts and craft applications and ornamental plants. The garden is located closeby the other facilities at the healing centre and is comprised of an orchard, a hillside garden (the dry garden) and creekbed garden (the wet garden) – each of which feature different plantings and irrigation requirements.

At the Garden Opening

Members of the Banatjari Strongbala Wumin Grup Council, the Jawoyn Association, Jawoyn Women Rangers and representatives from the Fred Hollows Foundation joined other guests to enjoy music from local bands, Shellie Morris, traditional dance and tours of the garden as part of the opening celebrations.

The opening of the garden also provided a special opportunity for nutritionists from East Timor and Indigenous health and community workers to learn about the use of traditional bush foods and medicines. Eight participants from the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation in Timor Leste and ten Aboriginal participants from across the Northern Territory came to the garden opening as part of a pilot short course called, Nutrition and Food Security. The course is being developed by Menzies School of Health Research in collaboration with The Fred Hollows Foundation.

Mavis Jumbiri, Chairperson of the Council, was joined by Miguel Soares from East Timor’s Ministry of Health on ABC radio on the day. They both spoke about the honour and value of sharing knowledge between communities, countries and generations – things this special garden is already achieving and looks well set to seed into the future.

Above: Wes Miller A/CEO and Ryan Baruwei, Chairperson of the Jawoyn Association, with Timor Leste guests in the Banatjarl Bush Tucker Bush Medicine Garden.

ABC interview with Mavis and Miguel, see

To request the Report Banatjarl Useful Plants and Bush Tucker Garden, contact: Alison Rogers, arogers (at)

To learn more about the Banatjarl Strongbala Wimens Grup Council, explore ways to support the healing centre visit:

Story by Anthea. Photos with permission from the Fred Hollows Foundation.

2 Responses Post a comment
  1. Bernie Fernandez permalink
    September 27, 2013

    Having learnt about the garden at the Katherine WOW Festival, I’m keen to know if there are opportunities for the public the garden by the public. It sounds wonderful.

  2. Bernie Fernandez permalink
    September 27, 2013

    Having learnt about the garden at the Katherine WOW Festival, I’m keen to know if it is possible for the public to view the garden at set times. Sounds wonderful

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