Learning from Both Sides: Experiences and Opportunities in the Investigation of Australian Aboriginal Medicinal Plants
AbstractWith one of the oldest surviving cultures in the world, Australian Aboriginal people have developed immense knowledge about the diverse Australian flora. Western scientific investigation of some Australian Aboriginal medicinal plants has demonstrated interesting pharmacological activities and chemistry, however the majority of these species have not yet been extensively examined. We argue that research that is locally initiated and driven by Indigenous traditional owners in collaboration with Western scientists has significant potential to develop new plant-based products. Locally driven medicinal plants research in which traditional owners work as researchers in collaboration with University-based colleagues in the investigation of medicines rather than “stakeholders” or “informants” is one model that may be used in characterising plants with the potential to be developed into sustainable plant-based medicinal products with commercial value. Our team has taken this approach in research located both on traditional homelands and in the laboratory. Research being conducted by the University of South Australia and Chuulangun Aboriginal Corporation has led to patent filing for protection of intellectual property associated with novel compounds and extracts with the potential for development through cosmetic, complementary medicine and pharmaceutical routes. Ongoing research is examining the commercial developmental pathways and requirements for product development in these spaces. This review will address the opportunities that might exist for working in partnership with Australian Indigenous communities, some of the scientific knowledge which has been generated so far from our work together and the lessons learnt since the inception of the collaboration between the Chuulangun Aboriginal Corporation and scientists from the University of South Australia. This article is open to POST-PUBLICATION REVIEW. Registered readers (see “For Readers”) may comment by clicking on ABSTRACT on the issue’s contents page.
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