Kuuku I'yu Northern Kaanju Traditional Custodians living on homelands at Chuulangun possess a broad and detailed knowledge of the ecology of the environment. Particularly, we have detailed knowledge of medicinal plant products, including the oils and resins derived from the leaves, bark, fruit, seeds and roots of woody plants. These resources play an important role in our spiritual and physical health and well-being at the local level.
Our vast knowledge of medicinal plants and plant products has been accumulated by particular Kuuku I'yu Northern Kaanju individuals via 'diachronic' observations of the environment and passed down through bloodline from generation to generation to the current generation of Northern Kaanju custodians and managers living on homelands.
This project has two main aims:
To investigate the novel pharmacological actions and chemical compounds of plant species used as traditional medicines from an area of high biodiversity, the Kuuku I'yu Northern Kaanju Homelands centred on the Wenlock and Pascoe Rivers.
To facilitate the preservation and transfer of cultural knowledge about these plants among core Northern Kaanju families living on homelands.
The Chuulangun Aboriginal Corporation initiated this project in 2003 and since then we have developed a strong collaborative relationship with scientists at the University of South Australia (UniSA). With these scientists we developed a project titled: "Pharmacological investigation of medicinal plant products from Kaanju Homelands, Wenlock and Pascoe Rivers, Cape York Peninsula" which was submitted to the Australian Research Council and approved in late 2005. Chuulangun Aboriginal Corporation was a Partner Investigator with the UniSA on the ARC Linkage Project for funding from 2006 to 2008.
This project is the first in-depth Western scientific evaluation of the pharmacology of plant medicines from this region of Cape York and will provide information to assist in the sustainable development of products based on Northern Kaanju medicinal plants. The project also serves as a model for equitable partnerships between Indigenous and Western scientific researchers in the investigation of traditional medicinal plant knowledge.
Importantly, Indigenous participation in this project involves the input of valuable intellectual property in the form of traditional knowledge about medicinal plants, plant products and their properties. This pre-existing traditional intellectual property (IP) will be fully acknowledged in the allocation of any new intellectual property generated through the project activity. A Collaborative Research Agreement between the University of South Australia and the Chuulangun Aboriginal Corporation has been developed and executed with the aim to protect the intellectual property rights, including the 'Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property Rights', of Indigenous participants in the project.
In 2012 this collaboration extended to include ITEK (the technology commercialisation company of the University of South Australia) and the Flinders University. In 2015 we have been discussing collaboration with scientists from the University of Copenhagan.
Information about the project, including a background, technology, IP status and inventors is described in this flyer: