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Nowanup Boodja

Healing Country, healing people

Nowanup is a meeting, learning, and healing space for Noongar people situated on reclaimed farming land in Noongar Boodja (Country). Noongar people have been custodians of the south-western part of Western Australia for 45,000 years. British colonisation of the region in the 1800s repurposed land and introduced European farming practices which contributed to the degradation and loss of wild bushland.

Led by Uncle Eugene Eades and other Elders, Noongar people have been working since 2004 to restore their ancestral lands and practices. This process is called ‘cultural revegetation’. By sharing their story here, Uncle Eugene’s hope is for Nowanup to inspire others across the world to revitalise connections to their own lands by sharing knowledge across generations.

Plants of Noongar Country

Nowanup lies between Koi Kyeunu-ruff (the Stirling Ranges) and the Fitzgerald River National Park. It acts as an important bridge for biodiversity between the two locations. Many Noongar Elders knew the area before it was cleared for farming and recognise its cultural significance. The selection of plants for the revegetation has been shaped by the traditional practices and cultural knowledge of the Noongar Elders. These herbarium sheets show a selection of the plants from Nowanup’s bushlands.

Changing landcare practices

In the 1960s the Australian government designated the land at Nowanup as suitable for agriculture and the wild bush was cleared for sheep farming. The land degraded and became barren, earning the nickname ‘Death Valley’. Returning Country to Indigenous stewardship allows people to use traditional cultural practices for landcare. This includes harvesting traditional foods and medicines, and performing cultural ceremonies, and cultural burning.

Cultural revegetation

Around the world, European-style farming excludes Indigenous People in order to raise animals and grow crops. At Nowanup, these actions led to the widescale degradation of Noongar land and waters. Now the cultural revegetation project has started to heal land and heal people. Colonisation, modern borders and disputes over land and water often mean that certain people are excluded from decision-making.

Photography credits

All images courtesy Esme Ward.