Indigenous project aims to stop yam fields from slipping AWAY

Aileen, Brooke, Markita, Simone and Kathleen.

Aileen, Brooke, Markita, Simone and Kathleen.

INDIGENOUS women from across the south-east region are at the forefront of a project aimed at ensuring ancient yam fields are not lost.

A meeting of the Aboriginal Women At Yam Fields (AWAY) was held in Bombala, as part of the Bundian Way Project, earlier this month.

Aboriginal woman Aileen Blackburn from Cann River and AWAY Project Indigenous trainees Brooke and Markita from Eden, together with Annabel Dorrough (Natural Regeneration Australia) from Wyndham and Simone Hill, Ag/Science teacher from Eden Marine High School, attended.

Both Aileen and Annabel are the joint Project Coordinators for the AWAY project.

The AWAY project aims to work with and train local indigenous women in seed collection, propagation and re-establishment of yam fields using traditional methods as appropriate. 

In addition, there will be future opportunities for education and tourism for school children and the general public as part of the Bundian Way Gateway information centre and hubs along the Bundian Way. 

The Bundian Way is the ancient Aboriginal and shared pathway stretching from Eden to Mount Kosciusko and passing through areas of Bombala and the township of Delegate. 

The yam fields were located along the Bundian Way and were an important food source for the old Aboriginal people. 

Yam fields included yam plants such as the Yam Daisy, also known as Nyamin or Murnong, together with native lilies and orchids. 

These yam plants produced the thickened roots and tubers that were a delicious staple of the old Aboriginal people. 

The yam fields were well-looked after by the Aboriginal women and plentiful across the Monaro and coastal regions. 

However, they disappeared fast when the first sheep crossed over the Monaro Plains. 

Apparently, they were the first plant eaten by sheep when the sheep were moved into new paddocks. Despite sheep grazing and other factors such as drought, pasture improvement, superphosphate fertiliser and compaction, the yam plants can still be found along the Bundian Way.

“It will be fantastic to see the yam fields maintained and re-established along the Bundian Way together with the establishment of a yam field garden at Jigamy Farm, Eden,” Bombala High School science teacher Kathleen Platts said. 

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