EnviroNorth > Arnhem Land > Weeds > Aboriginal Management of Weeds

Aboriginal management of weeds

Traditional knowledge

Aboriginal landowners in the Arnhem region have a strong sense of responsibility towards their land. However, traditional ecological knowledge, so valuable concerning issues such as fire management, has limitations in dealing with land-management problems (such as weeds) which are new to the experience of Aboriginal people.

  Wild passion fruit

The fruit of weeds like wild passionfruit, flowering above, are used by Aboriginal people
Photo: Greg Calvert

In pre-colonial Australia, there was no need for the concept of a weed, since ecological communities were generally stable under traditional Aboriginal land practices. Aboriginal people can therefore have difficulty appreciating the potential environmental impact of weed spread. It is vital that Aboriginal landowners have access to culturally appropriate information on introduced plant species so they can make informed decisions about growing them on their country.

Useful weeds?

Some introduced species are considered by some Aboriginal groups to be useful plants rather than weeds. For example, people eat fruits of wild passionfruit (Passiflora foetida), rosella (Hibiscus sabdariffa) and chinee apple (Ziziphus mauritiana ). Other species are not considered deleterious to the environment and may be accepted as part of the local flora, and may be eaten by some animals. Often in these situations there is no perceived need to remove them. Nonetheless, Aboriginal people do recognise certain invasive, non-useable weed species as problems.