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Bush medicine meets biochemistry

The University of Southern Queensland is combining Indigenous and Western science to create a new course unit.

This National Science Week, the focus has been on food – honouring the United Nations International Year of Fruits and Vegetables and the International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development.

The University of Southern Queensland has gone one step further, taking the focus beyond just one week by adding a new unit to its Biochemistry of Nutrition course, incorporating knowledge on native Australian vegetation with an emphasis on Indigenous expertise related to both food and bush medicine.

Biomedical Science lecturer Dr Sarah Myer said it was important to integrate Indigenous science and Western science and teach students the value of local knowledge.

“We’re exploring native Australian plants because they have so much vital nutritional value and significant bush medicine components that we need to learn about and the students need to know,” she said.

“At our Toowoomba campus, we’re additionally supported in providing this education thanks to the Gumbi Gumbi Gardens.”

University of Southern Queensland’s Elder in Residence, Uncle Wayne Fossey, hosted the first guest lecture for the new unit at the Gumbi Gumbi Gardens this month.

The Gardens were designed in close partnership with respected elders from Toowoomba and elders of the Jarowair people and feature more than 100 plant species including an extensive array of Indigenous flora used by the local Aboriginal communities for a range of purposes.

“The Gumbi Gumbi Gardens are a very special place that offer lots of places to gather, look at astronomy, plants and the interrelationship between plants and animals,” Uncle Wayne said.

“All our plants, above and below the ground, need to be looked at in terms of future food sources because we know that the mass agriculture in Australia isn’t the whole picture – we’ve got the opportunity to put some of this knowledge into courses that look at the biochemistry of food, the ecology and management side of food, and the future of native forests.

“The interrelationship of our plants is important, and the relationship between us and our plants and our connectedness are important too. I’m proud to be able to play my part in sharing this knowledge with students who will go on to work in our health industry.”

National Science Week 2021 acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the first scientists, makers and innovators of this land.

Uncle Wayne Fossey
University of Southern Queensland’s Elder in Residence, Uncle Wayne Fossey, hosted the first guest lecture for the new unit at the Gumbi Gumbi Gardens this month.