The University of Canberra (UC) is continuing to nurture its connection to the Ngunnawal peoples as the Traditional Owners of the land on which the university is based, with the opening of the Ngunnawal Plant Use Education Space.
At the opening ceremony on Wednesday 17 April, the space was gifted with a Ngunnawal name – ‘Ngaladjima’ – by the United Ngunnawal Elders Council. Ngaladjima is a Ngunnawal word for plants of different sizes, including trees.
Adjacent to the University’s Library, the Ngunnawal Plant Use Education Space is home to varieties native to the ACT region which the Ngunnawal people have used – and continue to use – for a myriad of purposes, from food to tools, weapons and medicine, to fibre and dye.
Among the plants, visitors will find Kangaroo Grass, which can be used for weaving baskets and fishing nets; Kurrajong, which has edible seeds, sap and shoots; and Narrow Leaf Hop Bush, its leaves used to relieve toothache.
The space features signs with both the Ngunnawal and the Latin botanical names for each plant, plus a description of its uses. They were planted according to the Ngunnawal Plant Use field guide, published by the ACT Government.
“The Ngunnawal Plant Use Education Space recognises the cultural history of this land and values the ongoing rich cultural legacy of the Ngunnawal people,” says Professor Peter Radoll, Dean of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leadership and Strategy.
“Learning about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures on campus, and within the curriculum, allows students to develop respect for diversity.”
Professor Deep Saini, UC Vice-Chancellor and President agrees, saying that the Ngunnawal Plant Use Education Space provides a valuable opportunity to increase cultural awareness on campus.
“This space provides a genuine opportunity for all students and staff to bridge the cultural gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians. Students and staff alike will be able to learn to nurture and appreciate Ngunnawal culture and values,” says Professor Saini.
“This ties in to UC’s ongoing commitment to providing a culturally safe environment for students, staff and communities through recognition of our First Peoples.”