• A small shed and a big dream

    October 23, 2020 • LIFE, STORIES

    In a small shed located in one of Australia’s most beautiful and remote landscapes, a group of Aboriginal women handmake skin care products enriched with native bush botanicals that are harvested on Country as taught by their Elders. Using traditional methods combined with new techniques they create their own take on Elders’ bush recipes.

    In 2016, a small group of women shared the desire to improve their quality of life for the Groote Eylandt women. Unfortunately, Warnindilyakwa women of the Groote Eylandt Archipelago face many challenges. With high rates of crime and violence in their communities, they don’t always feel safe. This impacts their mental health and that of their children. School attendance rates in these communities are low, jobs are scarce, and their life expectancy is reduced due to systemic and genetic health issues exacerbated by their remote location and limited access to services.

    Concerned about the challenges experienced by their community, these women founded Bush Medijina to support themselves. They started experimenting with bush recipes and from there the business was born. Bush Medijina is  an all-female social enterprise that provides employment and assists the wellbeing of Warnindilyakwa women.

    “The idea of starting a business using our cultural knowledge grew from the need to help our own people, especially our elderly who could no longer go on Country.  There also wasn’t much opportunity for us to come together to work in a way that brought our knowledge and culture together,” says Gayangwa Lalara OAM.

    Warningakalina women struggle with domestic violence, chronic disease, youth suicide, substance abuse, illiteracy, and other social problems.  “Our life expectancy is about forty-eight years old and we attend family funerals on average every two to three weeks.  Many of our children and grandchildren are in prison, and this causes us heartache and worry,” says Gayangwa Lalara OAM.

    All Bush Medijina products are handmade and packaged in a small shed which has become a haven for many of the workers as it gives them a break from their challenges. The native bush produce used in Bush Medijina products is harvested around the Eylandt using skills passed down through generations.  Bush Medijina uses a variety of native botanicals in their recipes including Dumburumba (Native Sandalwood), Mamarra (Small Leaved Paperbark), Mawilyaburna (Liniment Tree), Merrika (Broad Leaved Wattle) and Mamaburra (Wild Peach Tree).

    “Our traditional knowledge comes from our connection to our land, native botanicals, our ancestors, and our stories.  We have been using our bush knowledge and medicines to heal ourselves for generations. Traditionally when our families were sick, we would throw Mamarra leaves onto a fire and inhale the smoke, to heal colds and to clear blockages. Later we began adding the leaves to pots for inhalation and baths for soaking in. It also helped with tense muscles and aches. Today we use Mamarra in our Breathe Easy balm,” says Serena Bara, Chairperson of Bush Medijina.

    Bush Medijina is 100% Indigenous owned and governed by an all Indigenous women’s board. All proceeds from the sale of Bush Medijina products help to fund women’s advocacy opportunities and community wellbeing.  “We started with an empty shed but a full heart and a big dream. The Bush Medijina shed is now a working home. It is a lovely place to be,” says Serena.

     Now a growing business, the dream for Bush Medijina is to endure long after mining on Groote Eylandt has ceased.   “We want to expand Bush Medijina beyond our current home in Angurugu to other communities across the Groote Eylandt archipelago. We want to increase production to accommodate greater demand, creating new employment opportunities and far-reaching economic benefits for the families and children of Groote communities. We want to lift our Indigenous people and others up so that we can be stronger and healthier together,” says Serena.

    Shop Bush Medijina here >