Each month we bring you scenes and description from
western Arnhem Land or other parts of the Top End - showing the country,
bush food, and other aspects of Aboriginal life. On this page you
The main photographs and text are by Wayne Miles, an outstanding photographer
May - Harvest from the Waters
In the months of May and June, the time for cool weather, a spectacular
beauty carpets the receding floodwaters. The billabongs and lagoons
of the Top End are covered in water lilies, layer upon layer of colour
ranging from pure white to blues, purples and pinks.
By now the humidity has disappeared and the weather is
drier and cooler. Daybreak mists still hug the valleys and plains, home
to the majestic termite mounds. The mist will stay until the daily south
easterly winds blow it away. In this swirl of movement, most native
plants turn yellow, their seeds blowing across the land. This is a time
for Aboriginal harvesting of many of the bush foods.
The seeds of the Water Lily (Nymphaea) have always
been a valuable food source for the Aboriginal people of the north,
being rich in oil oil and carbohydrates. They may be eaten raw, but
are mostly roasted while still contained in the fruits. The seeds are
also collected in large quantities, ground into flour and baked into
a favourite damper bread. The flower stems and tubers are highly regarded
and are both eaten raw.
June - Yellow Grass and Pandanus
As well as being the start of the early Dry season, June is a time
when the first fires of early burning make their way through the bush,
lightly charring the landscape and bringing a renewed time for food
gathering and specialised hunting. In the tropical woodlands, swamp
margins and open forests, stands of Pandanus trees thrive before the
annual burn off. In the past, the Pandanus was one of the most widely
used plants of the hunter-gatherer societies of Northern Australia.
Burning Pandanus woodland near Darwin
In the months from June to October, the oily Pandanus seeds
were eaten raw. At the base of the barbed leaves is another
excellent food - a fleshy cabbage-like carbohydrate.
As well as having nutritional values, the Pandanus can
be used for a whole variety of medicinal purposes, especially
the healing of skin sores and sore throats and the curing
Pandanus and fruit
Basket made with
The leaves of the Pandanus plant also a useful fibre
for weaving, especially for the basket weavers of Maningrida
in Arnhem Land. The green, V-shaped leaf is first split
along its centre and the outer spines removed, then the
remaining parts are split into thin regular strips.
Pandanus is used for weaving coil baskets, fish traps,
ceremonial arm bands and dillybags.
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