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New native garden at SCU: largest on NSW north coast

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Published
28 October 2003
Eighty five plants that have been used by Indigenous Australian people for thousands of years for food and medicine, form the basis of a new Australian Native Food and Medicine Garden at Southern Cross University (SCU)'s Lismore campus.

The native garden - the largest on the NSW north coast - will be officially opened this Thursday, October 30, at 10am by Executive Director & Vice President Corporate Services, Malcolm Marshall.

“The three-hectare native garden took 12 months and cost $50,000 to establish,” garden curator Geoff Callan said. It is an extension of the Medicinal Plant Garden, which was built as part of the School of Natural and Complementary Medicine in 1997.

“Students will use the garden to identify the plants that have been traditionally used by indigenous Australian people for food and medicine, as well as for research into the plants’ medicinal and nutritional values,” Mr Callan said.

SCU’s Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian Peoples (CIAP) advised him on the choice of plants, and interpretation of plant usage for signs in the garden. Mr Callan also carried out extensive research of his own, including into local Bundjalung plants, the Wigay garden in Kempey, and use of plants by the Arrernte people in Central Australia.

The garden is expected to be used by CIAP for training in native plant usage and nutritional values, Mr Callan said.

“The College has already begun to use the garden for ceremonial purposes to honour elders who have died,” head of CIAP, Professor Judy Atkinson said. “Also last week students in the Cultural and Spiritual Wellbeing unit had their final presentation for the semester in the garden, which was significant on many levels.”

Several research projects are being carried out at the university into the medicinal values of Australian plants. For instance postdoctoral fellow Dr Rachel Li recently investigated the chemical components of some Australian native vines.

The garden is situated around the small lake at the university and includes two platforms for the wild ducks and water hens to roost on. One part of the garden is a designated Quiet Area, for meditation or prayer by students or staff. “Many Indigenous people have a quiet place as part of their culture,” he said. “The garden is also just a nice place to be. It's already proving popular with international students to have their lunch in.”

Visits to the garden by the general public can be arranged by contacting Geoff Callan, Garden Curator, Ph: 02 6620 3778, or Email: [email protected].

Media contact: Sara Crowe or Kath Duncan, SCU Media Liaison, Ph: 6620 3144, or M: 0439 858 057.