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 or for more information contact the Biocultural Knowledge section at the Department of Land Resource Management on (08) 8999 4513.

Some books are 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.TitlePublication yearAvailability / cost (incl. GST)
1A botanical survey of Elcho Island1976out of print
21. Botany of Maria Island, Gulf of Carpentaria
2. Vegetation survey of the Keep River Study Area
3. Botany of Peron Island
1979out of print
31. A botanical survey of Lander River – Lake Surprise Area
2. Checklist of vascular plants, Little Nourlangie Rock
1980out of print
41. General plant ecology and biology of the arid zone
2. Checklist of vascular plants of Palm Valley
1981out of print
5The family Moraceae in the Northern Territory1982out of print
6Ethnobotany, vegetation and floristics of Milingimbi1989$10
7Mangroves of the Northern Territory (revised version see publication 31)1989out of print
8Checklist of the vascular plants of the Darwin region1989$10
9Arid zone eucalypts of the Northern Territory1990$10
10Ethnobotanical notes from Belyuen1990$10
11Alawa ethnobotany from Minyerri1991$10
12Northern Territory flowering plants: a key to families1992out of print
13Northern Territory plants of conservation significance1992out of print
14Mudburra ethnobotany from Kulumindini (Elliot)1992$10
15Mangarrayi ethnobotany from the Elsey area1992$10
16Ngarinyman ethnobotany from the Victoria River1993$10
17A key to grasses of the Northern Territory, Australia1994out of print
18Gurindji ethnobotany from Daguragu1994$10
19Sundanese ethnobotany from West Java1994out of print
20Flora of the Darwin region, volume 21995$20
21Rirratjingu ethnobotany from Yirrkala1995out of print
22Ngan'gi ethnobotany from the Daly River1995out of print
23Iwaidja ethnobotany from Gurig National Park1998out of print
24Tiwi plants and animals from Bathurst/Melville2001out of print
25Wardaman plant and animal knowledge, Flora River1999out of print
26MalakMalak and Matngala plants and animals, Daly River.
Contact Merrepen Arts Centre by going to the Merrepen Arts, Culture and Language Aboriginal Corporation website
2001not for sale
27Useful plants in the Luku Melolo forest, Indonesia2001out of print
28Field key for monsoon rainforests Darwin region2001$20
29Jawoyn plants and animals, Nitmiluk and Katherine.
Call the Jawoyn Association on (08) 8971 1100.
2005not for sale
30Wagiman plants and animals from the Daly River.
Contact Mimi Aboriginal Art and Craft
2006not for sale
31Mangroves of the NT: identification and traditional use2006$20
32Marri Ngarr and Magati Ke plants and animals, Moyle River.
Contact Batchelor Institute
2009not for sale
33Warray plants and animals, Adelaide/Finniss Rivers.
Contact Mimi Aboriginal Art and Craft
2009not for sale
34Ngarinyman plants and animals, Judbarra / Gregory National Park.
Contact Mimi Aboriginal Art and Craft
2010not for sale
35Uunguu plants and animals, north-west Kimberley.
Call Wunambal Gaambera Aboriginal Corporation on (08) 9161 4205.
2011not for sale
36Jaru plants and animals, western Top End/Kimberley.
Contact Kimberley Language Resource Centre
2010not for sale
37Flora of the Darwin region2011e-publication only
38Jaminjung, Ngaliwurru and Nungali plants and animals.
Contact Mimi Aboriginal Art and Craft
2011not for sale
39Mangarrayi and Yangman plants and animals, Elsey National Park.
Contact Mimi Aboriginal Art and Craft
2011not for sale
40Bilinarra, Gurindji and Malngin plants and animals.
Contact Mimi Aboriginal Art and Craft
2012$20
41Dalabon plants and animals, southern Arnhem Land.
Contact Mimi Aboriginal Art and Craft
2012$20
42Walmajarri plants and animals, south Kimberley.
Contact Paruku Indigenous Protected Area (08) 9168 8258.
2013not for sale
43Ngan'gi plants and animals, Moyle River.
Contact Merrepen Arts Centre by going to the Merrepen Arts, Culture and Language Aboriginal Corporation website
2014not for sale

Last updated: 19 May 2016