1. Ngunnawal Country

1.4 Activities

Aboriginal management of the Australian landscape

Explore traditional ecosystem management practices.

For thousands of years, Aboriginal people used fire to manage the Australian landscape. The use of fire not only benefited Aboriginal people, but also shaped many of Australia’s ecosystems, including those in the ACT.


1. Discuss how the use of fire helped Aboriginal Australians.

2. Aboriginal Cultural Burning is based on thousands of years of observations, reflections, and planning. Investigate some of the methods that Aboriginal Australians use when undertaking Cultural Burning.

3. How did the Australian landscape change in response to the patterns of burning by Aboriginal Australians?

4. How can the use of Cultural Burning improve our management of fire and the health of our ecosystems and biodiversity?

Aboriginal use of plants

Explore the many uses of native plants.

Aboriginal Australians have extensive knowledge of Australian plants and their uses. For example, Aboriginal people used tea tree oil to prevent infections. Tea tree oil was much stronger than the antiseptics used by Europeans in the 1700s. Early Europeans in Australia noted that Aboriginal people could survive wounds that would kill European people.

To be able to use native plants properly and safely, Aboriginal people needed to understand them. Without the correct preparation, plants cannot be used effectively, and can poison people making them very sick.

The ACT’s Traditional Owners, the Ngunnawal people, used and continue to use, plants in this region for food, medicine, tools, weapons, fibre, dye and paint.

Information on the native plants of the ACT region and their many Ngunnawal uses can be found in the Ngunnawal Plant Use field guide, available here.


1. What are some of plants used by Ngunnawal people in the ACT?

2. Plants can be used for many purposes, what are the main uses of plants by the Ngunnawal people?