Indigenous Symbols, Icons and Imagery

With a history dating back over tens of thousands of years, the Indigenous People of Australia have a culture that is closely connected to the land around them. It is a landscape of considerable variation and beauty, of mountain ranges to desert sands, from the tropical far north, to the arid outback, rivers and lakes down to the temperate coastal regions and long stretches of beaches.

The landscape and everything in it, features prominently in all aspects of Aboriginal culture. It is an affinity that has evolved over many thousands of years into a close understanding of the native flora and fauna around them.

After the devastating impact on their culture by the appearance of Europeans, the Aboriginal people lost some of the knowledge that was their heritage. The changes to their way of life and the death of many of their elders, meant that much of their tradition and knowledge was not passed on.

The indigenous people of Australia, today are rediscovering and relearning from those elders that have survived, proudly reclaiming their heritage and rights. It is their knowledge of bush foods and bush medicine that sustained their culture, that has now captured the interest of others.

Today, an entire industry has sprung up around this knowledge of Australian Bush Food (Bush Tucker) and Bush Medicine.

Whilst bush food and bush medicine may usually be associated with plants, Aboriginal people also used the native wildlife as both food and medicine. Certain animals and insects such as the witchetty grub, not only provided sustenance, but held important medicinal usages.

The Witchetty grub also has very good healing properties. If you accidentally split its skin and its guts start spilling out, don’t worry, within a day it will be completely healed over. So it does the same for you. If you have a deep cut and you just happen to have a Witchetty Grub close by, you can rub it into the cut and it will help heal you. Or if you have a headache you can rub it into your forehead and the headache will go away. The Witchetty Grub is number one bush tucker and medicine.

Source: The Witchetty Grub Story, Alice Springs Desert Park
Bush Medicine by Trephina Sultan Thanguwa
Bush Medicine by Trephina Sultan Thanguwa

Many indigenous artists depict ‘bush food’ and ‘bush medicine’ in their art works, which is often the central theme of the artwork.

We will be listing information on some of the bush foods and medicine to be found in Australia. Check out our Aboriginal Symbols for related information.

WARNING: Extreme care must be taken when identifying edible food plants and those used in bush medicine. Some bush foods are only edible at different stages of the plant cycle, or when treated appropriately. Bush medicine should only be used under the guidance of a qualified physician.

Information here is only provided for research. You should always seek experts in the field to confirm the identification of the plant and whether they are edible or appropriate.

Check out our Aboriginal Symbols and flora and fauna section for other information.