Investigating customary medicinal biota for healthcare and community capability strengthening
The Yaegl Aboriginal people are the traditional custodians of the coastal regions of Yamba and Maclean in northern New South Wales. For centuries, the Yaegl people have used plants either orally or topically to treat different illnesses including colds, skin infections or as a general blood cleanser. The aim of this study was to investigate the phenolic profile of two underexplored plant species used by the Yaegl people as medicine: Alphitonia excelsa and Smilax australis. A bioassay-assisted metabolomics approach found 13 different phenolic compounds linked to antioxidant or antibacterial activity. Public information on A. excelsa and S. australis was incorporated into a Customary Medicinal Knowledge database. This online database, which was created with Yaegl Elders, compiles data including names, taxonomy, habitat, phytochemical and medicinal information of the plants. This project also provided community capability strengthening opportunities through science events for secondary students from Yaegl Country and other low socioeconomic status regions. Evaluative data showed that the events had met their objectives in increasing awareness of university life, study options including in the sciences, and aspirations to finish school and study at university.