ACT Member for Murrumbidgee and Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Chris Steel, has officially opened the Bush Tucker Garden at the National Arboretum in the Southern Tablelands Ecosystems Park (STEP).
All plant species for the garden have been selected from the book Ngunnawal Plant Use, which was developed in consultation with the Ngunnawal elders and community. The book was designed by National Arboretum Canberra horticultural staff, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander personnel, in consultation with STEP volunteers.
The garden features a basket-weaving area, along with a range of berries, grasses and other native plants, including species that the local Ngunnawal people have used for thousands of years as food, fibre and shelter or for their aromatic and medicinal qualities. It offers a great opportunity to learn about local Ngunnawal culture.
“This is the culmination of over 130 hours of staff time to create a fantastic garden that will be used for educating the whole community, and particularly young people, about Ngunnawal culture, their connection to country and also our local flora,” Mr Steel said.
“We’ve created a space where people can come together and learn more about native plants, their importance to our local Aboriginal communities, and how they can be eaten and used in cooking for cultural and medicinal purposes.”
STEP is a multipurpose space used for Ngunnawal culture, reflection, conservation, education and native plant appreciation. Minister Steel said the ACT government was using the garden to try to foster a sense of reconciliation with local First Nations people and support a better understanding and learning of Aboriginal culture.
“The Bush Tucker Garden design was inspired by the landform and the rivers of the local region, with the first two tiers of the garden representing the local hills and mountains. The garden’s footpaths flow together and converge, representing the local rivers and waterways,” Mr Steel said.
“It’s a great opportunity for families and garden enthusiasts to walk through a Bush Tucker Garden and be inspired to grow native plants in their own backyards. Local plant species are adapted to the Canberra climate [and] also attract and support native fauna.”
As for the taste?
“It’s a unique taste,” Mr Steel said. “I’m a big fan. I might have to plant some of this stuff in my own garden. I think that’s part of the education journey that people can experience here.”
The Bush Tucker Garden is open daily from 6 am to 8:30 pm during Daylight Saving Time. Find out more at nationalarboretum.act.gov.au.