Last week the Laura Rangers group organised a cultural plant awareness day with community Elders, the pupils and teachers of Laura State School, and the local community, to celebrate World Environment Day.
The enthusiastic group searched the banks of the Laura River and Mossman Creek looking for traditionally used plant species . During the short walk, fifteen plants used in medicinal, nutritional or material traditons were found. Laura Elders, Aileen Gale and Fred Coleman, explained the preparation and use of the plants in traditional culture.
Mrs Gale explained that an excursion on country is the best way to learn about natural resources available in the bush. The children learned how to identify useful and dangerous plants and through careful observation of plants in their natural environment, they learned where the species are likely to be found.
The group was taught how to recognise when a food plant was ready for harvest, and traditional harvesting methods were explained and demonstrated. Laura Ranger Brian Ross gave a spear making demonstration, which enthralled the children.
Laura State School principal Susan Kersland was delighted to see the community, school, local police and rangers working together to make the excursion interesting, educational and fun.
“It is great to see the children connecting with their heritage and I am very happy that this type of event is supported within the school curriculum,” Ms Kersland said.
The excursion was part of a combined South Cape York Catchments and Laura Ranger project to preserve traditional knowledge. It supports plans to install an interpretive cultural plant trail at the Split Rock and Mushroom Rock art galleries. Signs identifying the plant species and corresponding traditional uses allow tourists visiting these sites, to gain insight into the Aboriginal culture of the Laura area.
Funding for the interpretative signs is supplied by a NRM Community Awareness Grant from the Department of Environment and Resource Management.
In a unanimous decision the group decided that further excursions are to be arranged in alternate seasons, to provide opportunity for understanding optimum harvesting for various bush tucker plants.