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7 Jul 2020

Our traditional heritage

Aboriginal people have maintained and preserved the lands of Australia for over 65,000 years through more than 500 different Aboriginal countries that make up this unique landscape. 

A mistake that many people make about Aboriginal people is thinking that language, culture, traditions and beliefs are all the same, but there is a huge diversity in all these aspects across these countries.

The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney plays a fundamental role in teaching Aboriginal knowledge, customs and beliefs, and how all these positively impact many of the current social, economic and environmental issues we face, both short and long term, not just in New South Wales but also across Australia and around the world.

The Garden is one of the largest deliverers of Aboriginal educational content for schools, and it provides experiences where visitors can learn about the heritage and significance of Aboriginal culture, gaining valuable insights. The Garden helps to keep Aboriginal culture alive through a sharing of knowledge, advocacy, public events and research.

Guide Terry holding an emu-hunting boomerang

Cadi country

In the area known as Sydney, there are about 29 different Aboriginal clan groups, collectively referred to as the Eora Nation. Where the Garden is located, the traditional owners are the Cadigal people, who have a unique affinity with Sydney’s harbour and surrounding lands.

The Cadigal and other Aboriginal communities developed a complex relationship with plants that are native to this site over tens of thousands of years and, like everyone, depend on plants for nourishment and health.

Weaving lomandra leaves

Bush survival plant

If you live in Sydney, you've almost certainly seen a plant called lomandra. It has long and flat green leaves, and produces heavily scented flowers from late winter to early spring. Lomandra is a very hardy plant, and it is often found growing on roadsides and median strips because it’s so tough and drought tolerant.

There are 51 species of lomandra, and they are all native to Australia. Lomandra is known as the ‘corner shop’ in many Aboriginal cultures because it’s such a vital source of food and other resources that are essential for survival.

If you pull lomandra’s long, green blades out of the ground, you can chew on the white stem for hydration and nourishment, which is handy in dryer conditions. They taste like raw cabbage or fresh baby peas.

The plant’s smooth, strap-shaped leaves are gathered from around the water’s edge and can be weaved to make items used in everyday life, such as baskets. Lomandra seed pods have also been used for thousands of years by different Aboriginal groups across New South Wales. Lomandra seed pods have also been used for thousands of years by different Aboriginal groups across New South Wales to make bread, we call it damper.

Through our tours and programs, you can learn about this first-hand, as well as many other unique Aboriginal uses of our Australian native plants.

The Garden helps to keep Aboriginal culture alive.
Project manager of Aboriginal strategy

Take a tour

Our Aboriginal Heritage Tour, which includes walking through the Cadi Jam Ora: First Encounters Garden, is one of the most popular Aboriginal cultural tours in Sydney. Join a tour by booking a spot here.

Category: Education
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