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Bush Medijina reinventing Australian skincare

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An Aboriginal woman in dark dress and patterned scarf sits next to a bush and holds three small containers in her hands. In the background is water, a wharf, a tree and buildings.
Serena Bara
16 Dec 2019

In February 2016, a desire to improve the quality of life for Groote Eylandt women coupled with curious minds, led two Indigenous staff of the Anindilyakwa Services Aboriginal Corporation (ASAC) to experiment with bush recipes.

Soon after, Bush Medijina was born, an all-women social enterprise that harvests traditionally used bush botanicals to create modern skincare products for sale around Australia.

This past November, the enterprise won the prestigious 2019 Telstra Social Change Maker Award acknowledging outstanding NT businesses. Leonie Lalara, Kerstina Mamarika and Britt Hollingworth attended the ceremony and accepted the award on behalf of Bush Medijina.

Employing a team of 23, it is building capability and making a positive difference to the livelihoods of Warnindilyakwa women and their families living in the Groote Archipelago.

Serena Bara is in charge of women’s Advocacy and Programs at ASAC.

‘We create quality hand-made products such as soaps, balms, hair oil and body butters from traditional bush recipes that are blended with certified organic essential oils,’ Serena said.

Bush Medijina uses a variety of native botanicals in their recipes including Dumburumba (Native Sandalwood), Mamarra (Small Leaved Paperbark), Mawilyaburna (Liniment Tree), Merrika (Broad Leaved Wattle) and Mamaburra (Wild Peach Tree).

‘Traditionally when our families were sick we would throw Mamarra leaves onto a fire and inhale the smoke, to heal colds and to clear blockages,’ Serena said.

‘Later we began adding the leaves to pots for inhalation and baths for soaking in. It also helped with tense muscles and aches. Today we use Mamarra in our Breathe easy balm.’

Collection of metal containers with ochre, blue, green and fawn coloured lids are grouped together with different native bush plants, some green and others orange in colour.
Bush Medijina sends their products all over Australia.

Great natural skincare products available online and distributed to customers all over Australia is not the only outcome of Bush Medijina.

‘Every time the ladies come to work they feel pride and joy. Everything we do, we share and do it as a team,’ Serena said.

‘We are always happy; that’s what the community like about us. We are friendly people who always give a smile.’

Also, the stable employment enables the women to support their families.

And the cultural knowledge and traditions are kept alive as they are passed to the younger generations.

ASAC Chairperson, Muriel Jaragba said the profits from the Bush Medijina enterprise are re-invested into supporting advocacy and social change initiatives for the staff and the wider community.

‘We co-ordinate with stakeholder organisations, and support community groups to deliver initiatives that help us achieve our vision for Groote Eylandt,’ Muriel said.

‘Respect, culture, education and wellness are the core values that underpin our organisation. We foster a supportive, inclusive and flexible workplace environment.’

As the Northern Territory winners, Bush Medijina attended the national Telstra awards ceremony in Melbourne on 21 November at the Sofitel Hotel.

Find out more

Read more about the business at Bush Medijina.

The National Indigenous Australians Agency supports Anindilyakwa Services Aboriginal Corporation (ASAC) through Aboriginals Benefit Account Grant Funding.

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