Nourishing Matters to Chew OnNourishing Matters to Chew On

With Gerry Turpin, Senior Ethnobotanist, Tropical Indigenous Ethnobotany Centre

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Listen in, be inspired by Gerry Turpin, a Mbabaram Traditional Owner who is 'as far as he knows' the first fully trained Indigenous Ethnobotanist in Australia who has helped seed and lead groundbreaking, research that bridges two worlds and empowers Elders and communities to research, record, protect and derive value from their plant and cultural knowledge and to share it in ways they want.

This is the final deep dive, long lens conversation for Nourishing Matters 2022. It's one that book ends the series since its inception in late 2019 when I was blown away by Gerry's keynote presentation at PULiiMA 2019 and the power of his work for culture, community, environmental and food sovereignty. 

Learning how to love, see and better care for country and our unique plants and biodiversity by drawing upon First People's knowledge in dialogue with Western science is something many of us yearn for in our changing climate, quest for Reconciliation and urgent desire to protect all 'plants, animals and ecosystems' that are precious. Gerry and his team are leaders in this critical space: they build and record Indigenous Biocultural Knowledge (IBK) with Elders and their communities and enact protocols, research methods and pathways that enable and ensure that plant research is guided by Traditional Knowledge holders with their full, informed and prior consent.  

Gerry is the Senior Ethnobotanist at the Tropical Indigenous Ethnobotany Centre (TIEC) at James Cook University in Cairns. Characteristically modest, he is however  rightly recognised nationally and internationally for what he does, inculcates, and is enabling for a more sustainable, regenerative future. 

TIEC is a partnership between Traditional Owners, the Queensland Government (including the Queensland Herbarium), CSIRO, James Cook University's Cairns Institute and the Australian Tropical Herbarium joint venture.  

Listen in and hear from Gerry about how his work has evolved and what his big dreams for the future are that include: 

  • to hold an International Indigenous Ethnobotanical Conference in Cairns - huge benefits for Northern Queensland and communities
  • to see the Nagoya Protocol ratified by the current Commonwealth Government, to enable stronger protection of Indigenous Biocultural Knowledge rights across all Australian States and Territories 
  • to secure more funds to assist him and the Tropical Indigenous Ethnobotany Centre to engage and employ more people to do the urgent work that needs to be done before more Elders and their plant and cultural knowledge passes ....

I first met Gerry in or around 2010 through my Remote Indigenous Gardens Network work.  At that time TIEC was newly established. Since then Gerry and his work have gone from strength to strength.

I am humbled and feel honoured to have watched the growth and impact of what Gerry does.  He is one of those quietly modest but amazing people who show and lead the way. Thank you Gerry, for what you do and for the quiet but steely spirit you share to guide how we might all change, add layers to the lens, and quietly support, act and do like you do to grow, protect and share good things ....

The Tropical Indigenous Ethnobotany Centre, JCU Cairns    https://www.tiec.org.au/

The Australian Tropical Herbarium   https://www.ath.org.au/

Since this interview was recorded, it has been announced that James Cook University will host a new Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Indigenous and Environmental Histories and Futures (CIEHF) – aiming to bring Indigenous and environmental histories to the forefront of land and sea management and Gerry and TIEC will be integral to that.  https://www.jcu.edu.au/news/releases/2022/november/new-$89m-national-research-centre-at-jcu

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