Aboriginal knowledge: plants and animals

Knowledge of plants and animals has been passed on by Aboriginal people for tens of thousands of years. This is called biocultural knowledge.

This type of knowledge is different across each Aboriginal language in the Northern Territory (NT) and north Australia.

Researchers have worked with Aboriginal elders, their families and linguists to record and promote Aboriginal biocultural knowledge since 1982.

Research

Elders and teachers from more than 50 different Aboriginal languages and cultures are taking part in research.

The plant and animal knowledge of 41 Aboriginal language groups has been published in books.

This includes detailed and ancient information about all of the following:

  • bush tucker
  • bush medicine
  • the seasons
  • fibre crafts
  • tools and implements
  • hunting signs
  • artefacts knowledge
  • Dreamtime stories.

Programs

Current research is looking at subjects including:

  • Belaa plants and animals
  • Alawa, Marra and Warndarrang plants and animals
  • Batjamalh, Emmi and Mendhe plants and animals.

Books

The findings of biocultural knowledge research are recorded in the Northern Territory Botanical Bulletin series of books listed in the table below.

To buy these books, contact the Biocultural Knowledge section in the Department of Environment, Parks and Water Security on 08 8999 4513.

Some books may be sold by other organisations - their contact details are listed below.

To find books out of print or not for sale, contact your local library or Biocultural Knowledge section.

No.Title Publication year Availability / cost (incl. GST)
1 A botanical survey of Elcho Island 1976 out of print
2 1. Botany of Maria Island, Gulf of Carpentaria
2. Vegetation survey of the Keep River Study Area
3. Botany of Peron Island
1979 out of print
3 1. A botanical survey of Lander River – Lake Surprise Area
2. Checklist of vascular plants, Little Nourlangie Rock
1980 out of print
4 1. General plant ecology and biology of the arid zone
2. Checklist of vascular plants of Palm Valley
1981 out of print
5 The family Moraceae in the Northern Territory 1982 out of print
6 Ethnobotany, vegetation and floristics of Milingimbi 1989 $10
7 Mangroves of the Northern Territory (revised version see publication 31) 1989 out of print
8 Checklist of the vascular plants of the Darwin region 1989 $10
9 Arid zone eucalypts of the Northern Territory 1990 $10
10 Ethnobotanical notes from Belyuen 1990 $10
11 Alawa ethnobotany from Minyerri 1991 $10
12 Northern Territory flowering plants: a key to families 1992 out of print
13 Northern Territory plants of conservation significance 1992 out of print
14 Mudburra ethnobotany from Kulumindini (Elliot) 1992 $10
15 Mangarrayi ethnobotany from the Elsey area 1992 $10
16 Ngarinyman ethnobotany from the Victoria River 1993 $10
17 A key to grasses of the Northern Territory, Australia 1994 out of print
18 Gurindji ethnobotany from Daguragu 1994 $10
19 Sundanese ethnobotany from West Java 1994 out of print
20 Flora of the Darwin region, volume 2 1995 $20
21 Rirratjingu ethnobotany from Yirrkala 1995 out of print
22 Ngan'gi ethnobotany from the Daly River 1995 out of print
23 Iwaidja ethnobotany from Gurig National Park 1998 out of print
24 Tiwi plants and animals from Bathurst/Melville
For more information, call Tiwi Resources on 08 8941 1162 or go to the Tiwi Resources website.
2001 $40
25 Wardaman plant and animal knowledge, Flora River 1999 out of print
26 MalakMalak and Matngala plants and animals, Daly River 2001 not for sale
27 Useful plants in the Luku Melolo forest, Indonesia 2001 out of print
28 Field key for monsoon rainforests Darwin region 2001 $20
29 Jawoyn plants and animals, Nitmiluk and Katherine.
For information, call the Jawoyn Association on 08 8971 1100.
2005 not for sale
30 Wagiman plants and animals from the Daly River.
For more information, call Mimi Aboriginal Art and Craft on 08 8971 0036 or go to the Mimi Aboriginal Art and Craft website.
2006 not for sale
31 Mangroves of the NT: identification and traditional use 2006 $20
32 Marri Ngarr and Magati Ke plants and animals, Moyle River.
For more information, call the Batchelor Institute on 08 8939 7111 or go to the Bachelor Institute website.
2009 not for sale
33 Warray plants and animals, Adelaide/Finniss Rivers.
For more information, call Mimi Aboriginal Art and Craft on 08 8971 0036 or go to the Mimi Aboriginal Art and Craft website.
2009 not for sale
34 Ngarinyman plants and animals, Judbarra / Gregory National Park.
For more information, call Mimi Aboriginal Art and Craft on 08 8971 0036 or go to the Mimi Aboriginal Art and Craft website.
2010 not for sale
35 Uunguu plants and animals, north-west Kimberley.
For more information, call the Wunambal Gaambera Aboriginal Corporation on 08 9161 4205.
2011 not for sale
36 Jaru plants and animals, western Top End/Kimberley.
For more information, call the Kimberley Language Resource Centre on 08 9168 6005 or go to the Kimberly Language Resource Centre website.
2010 not for sale
37 Flora of the Darwin region 2011 e-publication only
38 Jaminjung, Ngaliwurru and Nungali plants and animals.
For more information, call Mimi Aboriginal Art and Craft on 08 8971 0036 or go to the Mimi Aboriginal Art and Craft website.
2011 not for sale
39 Mangarrayi and Yangman plants and animals, Elsey National Park.
For more information, call Mimi Aboriginal Art and Craft on 08 8971 0036 or go to the Mimi Aboriginal Art and Craft website.
2011 not for sale
40 Bilinarra, Gurindji and Malngin plants and animals.
For more information, call Mimi Aboriginal Art and Craft on 08 8971 0036 or go to the Mimi Aboriginal Art and Craft website.
2012 $20
41 Dalabon plants and animals, southern Arnhem Land.
For more information, call Mimi Aboriginal Art and Craft on 08 8971 0036 or go to the Mimi Aboriginal Art and Craft website.
2012 $20
42 Walmajarri plants and animals, south Kimberley.
For more information, call the Paruku Indigenous Protected Area on 08 9168 8258.
2013 not for sale
43 Ngan'gi plants and animals, Moyle River.
For information, call Merrepen Arts on 08 8978 2533‬ or go to the Merrepen Arts website
2014 not for sale

Last updated: 02 October 2020

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