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Traditional bush medicine expert collaboration to boost farm productivity across the South West

Thousands of years of traditional plant use is being harnessed through a new collaboration aimed at boosting farm and production and plant resilience.

Highly respected Noongar elder Vivienne Hansen is lending her wealth of knowledge on bush medicine to the South West Catchment Council to create a guide to Noongar plant use, aimed at boosting pollination rates and building farm resilience.

The guide ‘Enhancing pollination services through targeted revegetation – Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) about plants identified as suitable for pollinators’ will be available mid-2023.

Hailing from the Bibbulmun Nation of South West WA, Ms Hansen has dedicated her life to traditional plant medicine, becoming the first Indigenous member of the National Herbalist Association of Australia, and has also published two books, ‘Noongar Bush Medicine’ and ‘Noongar Bush Tucker’.

Ms Hansen will contribute her traditional Noongar ecological knowledge of native plant species known to attract pollinators such as insects and birds and Noongar plant use.

Development of the guide forms part of a wider SWCC research project investigating how pollination services can be enhanced to increase farm productivity.

SWCC has been working with orchardists and broadacre farmers since 2018 to revegetate parts of their farm with both perennials plants and native vegetation as a way of creating wider food availability for pollinator insects and birds.

“Farmers are really interested in how this information can be used to encourage biodiversity on their farms and how to manage revegetation,” project manager for the collaboration at SWCC, Wendy Wilkins, said.

“They’re also interested in the Noongar six seasons, traditional plant use and cultural burning practices.”

The project will gather evidence from a variety of methods that are aimed at boosting food stock for pollinating species, providing shelter, enhancing revegetation on farmland, and integrating environmentally sensitive pest control measures.

Work on the project so far has included engagement with other local elders and bush medicine specialist who have provided one-on-one skills sessions and workshops with more than 30 farmers throughout the region.

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