Reconnecting with nature and local culture

22 July 2016

Local Aboriginal girls and Stephen Vigilante at Gunnado Farm.

There’s always something special about connecting with nature – and traditional cultural practices – and that’s exactly what eight local Aboriginal girls recently got the opportunity to do at Gunnado Farm south east of Geraldton.

The girls were led by landscape architect and designer Stephen Vigilante who helped the girls to identify and map-out local native Zamia palms (Macrozamia sp.) on the farm and taught about the importance of key native plants.

The Zamia palm (Macrozamia sp.) has both biological and cultural significance in the Northern Agricultural Region, and right across its range. It is a species of plant in the Zamiaceae family, and is endemic to Western Australia.

“In the past, the nuts of the Zamia palm have been used as food by Aboriginal Australians, however if eaten raw (as some were by un-knowing European explorers) they will cause poisoning,” said Mr Vigilante.

Reported cases of poisoning from this cycad (zamia) are perhaps the earliest for any local plant. Macrozamia is mentioned as causing sickness in men eating the seeds by Vlaming in 1697, La Perouse in 1788, Flinders in 1801, and Sir George Grey in 1839 (Gardner and Bennetts, 1956).

While on their visit to Gunnado, the girls also took photos of a range of important plants that occur at the site to help compile a register of WA endemic plant species found at Gunnado farm.

Judging from their feedback, all of the girls enjoyed the excursion, and the day’s activities.

The day concluded by touring a number of recreational and culturally-significant places around the farm.

GSAC’s Operation Manager Merrilyn Green said “The Geraldton Streetwork Aboriginal Corporation would like to thank NACC for the great opportunity given to this group of young girls to learn more about Gunnado’s flora and to survey and map the Zamia palms on site.”

She also expressed special thanks to Steve Vigilante for donating his time and for sharing his vast knowledge.

“The day was full of excitement, with the girls taking many photos of the plants, and learning so much about the land,” said Ms Green. “Hopefully it may even open the door for future career pathways,” she said.

The event was supported by Geraldton Streetwork Aboriginal Corporation and the Northern Agricultural Catchments Council, through funding from the Australian Governments National Landcare Programme as part of the NACC’s Regional Landcare Facilitator project.

The WA FloraBase has recorded the northern Zamia palm distribution around Dongara and Eneabba with the far northern-most occurrence at Yandanook. GSAC would like to know if anyone has seen other Zamia palms as far north as Gunnado/Walkaway. If so, please contact Stephen Vigilante:

Media Contact: Kym Jefferies, 0899 380 214.

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