Centre for Australian Languages and Linguistics

Utopia Bush Medicine Project

The Utopia Bush Medicine Project was a community-based intergenerational and multi-disciplinary, language maintenance and documentation project on the Utopia Homelands. Utopia is located in remote central Australia, approximately 300 kilometres north-east of Alice Springs. It is a decentralised community comprising 16 or so homelands which are situated on some of the traditional country of the Alyawarr and Eastern Anmatyerr people.

The project was initiated in 2007 in response to a request from a group of senior women from Utopia, for support to document traditional bush medicine knowledge. They were keen to ensure that the younger people can continue to identify plants, know where to find them, how to prepare them and how to use them. They also wanted them to be knowledgeable about other traditional medicines, such as animal fats and bloods and the importance of awely anter ‘healing fat’ – fat that has been ‘sung’. The women wanted opportunities for old people and young people to come together to record stories and set them down. Over 3 years the project produced many animations, films, books, exhibitions and members of the community language team attended several conferences, local, national and international.

In 2008, the first year of the project culminated in a significant exhibition, Intem-antey anem ‘These things will always be’, held at Araluen Gallery, Alice Springs. The multi media exhibition was a celebration of art, language and bush medicines. It admirably expressed the deep feelings for medicinal plants in innovative, elegant and engaging ways. Watch the film Intem-antey anem that captures some of the energy and activity of the intergenerational community language team at work.