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Dalwallinu Acacia Symposium: 13–14 July 2001

Traditional use of Acacia by indigenous Australians

Peter Latz

Box 2482, Alice Springs, N.T. 0871

With my knowledge of Aboriginal plant utilisation I could probably go bush from my home at Alice Springs tomorrow and spend the next year obtaining all I need for survival from the sixty or so Acacia species that occur in Central Australia. Admittedly, to make life more comfortable I would need some bottles of vitamin C pills and some tobacco (because I am a nicotine addict]. I would also need to work like hell during October–November gathering seed to store for use during lean times. Central Australian wattles are generous because they produce edible seed [30+species], grubs [11+], lerps [4], edible galls [1+], honey [2], medicine [13+], wood for implements [18+], excellent firewood, a thermoplastic or glue and material for constructing shelters. Minor products include a detergent, a tea, sharp needles, etc. Central Australian wattles are probably unique in the world in being the dominant organism over most of the deserts’ various habitats. They range from being large long-lived trees which live in undisturbed habitats, to smaller quick-growing shrubs which thrive in highly disturbed areas. Because wattle seed was such an important part of their diet, central Australian Aborigines had an intimate knowledge of all aspects of their utilization, including use of fire to maximise production.

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