What makes you feel wild and alive?
I am an Abiji so having my grandkids around me is one of my favourite things. I cherish going out on Country, hunting and fishing with my family. I love catching trevally, collecting pipi shells, oysters and muscles. I also love going to the mainland, particularly Darwin, during my holidays to go shopping. We don’t have many shops here on Groote Eylandt, so it’s fun to go and experience city life.
What does your name, Bush Medijina, mean?
Bush Medijina means “Bush Medicine” in our local Anindilyakwa language. Our people have been using our bush medicines to heal ourselves for thousands of years.
What is the name and where is the Country where you live, work and play?
I live and work in Angurugu Community, which is on Groote Eylandt. My Dad’s Country is on the mainland near Numbulwar and my Mum’s Country is Mikbamurra (Umbakumba). I was born in Mikbamurra but grew up in Angurugu. I like to go camping and fishing on Mikbamurra Country.
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What are some of the native Australian botanicals you blend into your products?
We harvest bush medicine on Country, as taught to us by our mothers, aunties and grandmothers. The main native botanicals we use are:
Dumburumba (Native Sandalwood)The trees are found in the bush and by the beach. Our elders have traditionally used the leaves for centuries to soothe the skin.
Mamarra (Small-Leaved Paperbark) and Mawilyaburna (Liniment Tree)
These are found in billabongs and wetlands on Groote Eylandt and are traditionally used in very similar ways. Anindiliyakwa men used Mamarra wood to make canoes and women traditionally used the bark to make coolamons to carry their babies. You can find Mamarra and Mawilyaburna in many of our products, from balms to soaps, clays and scrubs.
Merrika (Broad-Leaved Wattle)
Along with its many uses in soothing the skin, our elders use Merrika as a “botanical clock”. We know that when this tree flowers, the terns are laying their eggs. Traditionally, men used the wood to make the sharp tips of their fishing spears and women used the wood for digging sticks. As well as using Merrika in our balms and soaps, we use the seasonal flowers in our body butter.
Mamaburra (Wild Peach Tree)
Mamaburra trees grow in the bush and are loved for their fruit. These trees grow abundantly on Groote Eylandt and in addition to their use in traditional recipes, our elders used the inner bark to repair cracks and holes in their canoes. The rich red colour of the bark gives many of our products their ruddy colour, reflecting the palette of our land. We also use the dried bark as an exfoliant in our scrubs.
How are you working to empower the indigenous community?
Our vision is to support our Warningakalina women to be strong in culture, wellbeing, education and respect. We want to empower our women to create local solutions and have hopes and dreams for the future. Through Groote Eylandt and Milyakburra Strong Women’s Group (SWG), we create change for better outcomes on some challenging issues such as domestic violence, substance abuse, youth justice and suicide, chronic disease, education and parenting.
Our Strong Women’s Group also works hard to run our Eningaba Arndirnda (Good Heart) program, which provides healthy lifestyle and literacy programs for women in our communities.
Our shed, where we make our products, provides a safe place for women in the community to work and have a break from their challenges. We bring women in our communities together to connect and give us a sense of purpose. We are strong women wanting to make a difference by ourselves, for ourselves — for our families, and most of all for our communities.
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What’s next for Bush Medijina?
We have just launched two new products — a face moisturiser and a clay mask, which we are excited about. We are expanding and our facilities are small, so we have a plan to build a bigger shed that will allow us to increase our production and employment to better meet the demand. We also want to expand into other communities across the Groote Archipelago so women from all communities can have the same opportunity to be part of Bush Medijina.
We are proud of our business and continue to make new products. We are excited about our growth and the future.