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Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islanders [Pre-Contact]

EUCALYPTUS: In traditional Australian Aboriginal medicine the leaves are used in poultices for any type of wound and inflammation.

SOURCE: Google Images

Healers Djerrkngu Marika (left) and Bablangua Manungurr are preparing a fire for Bush medicines.

SOURCE: Colson, M 2013, Indigenous Australian Cultures, Chicago, Capstone eBook Collection, EBSCOhost.


Health and Healing

Indigenous Australians have always made their own medicine from the plants and animals in their environment. Known as bush medicine, these natural cures are still use today by some communities.

Traditional healers, both men and women, are known as ngangkari.  Warlpiri women still perform yawylyu ceremonies to help people who are sick.  they sing and paint healing pictures on the sick person.

How Medicines are Made and Used

Bush medicines are made from mixing berries, seeds and leaves with animal fat. Plants are often ground and boiled before being mixed with fat to make ointments. This can be used on rashes, burns or stings.  Leaves are boiled in water to make a king of tea that is drunk or applied to cuts to prevent infection. Honey is also used to clean wounds. For chest infections, leaves are placed on a fire and the smoke is inhaled.

SOURCE:  Colson, M 2013, Indigenous Australian Cultures, Chicago, Capstone eBook Collection, EBSCOhost, viewed July 17 2016.

Did You Know?

When Europeans arrived in 1788 they brought new diseases that Indigenous Australians had no immunity against.  In 1789 a smallpox epidemic in Sydney wiped out around 50 percent of the local indigenous population. Today, Indigenous Australians have a life expectancy of 17 years less than the Australian average. This is because of poverty and a lack of equal opportunities.