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Kiwirrkurra community marks 40 years with 'Mirrka Palya' book launch

Joseph Guenzler -

Kiwirrkurra, Australia's most remote community, celebrated its 40th anniversary last week with the launch of a special project during an evening concert.

The project, "Mirrka Palya - Bush Foods of the Kiwirrkurra people," was in development for eight years.

The project owes its existence to the dedication of Kiwirrkurra's senior women (Nolia, Yalti, Josephine, Payu, Yakari, Nyanyuma, Mantua, Kim, Sally and Monica), who diligently documented their bush foods, plants, language, and stories for future generations.

Authors of Mirrka Palya pose infront of tall tjanpi grass, mainly found in the western part of Kiwirrkurra lands. (Image: Captured from Mirrka Palya)

In 2014, Kiwirrkurra, a community of about 150 people, designated their land as an Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) and then in 2015, they collaborated with Bush Blitz, bringing scientists to explore new species.

This sparked a project, initially focusing on witchetty grubs, and later expanded to capture knowledge about various bush foods, with a strong emphasis on preserving the associated language.

Kate Crossing, the People and Programs manager at Desert Support Services, said it was "really important to the ladies that the focus was not just on the plants and how they were collected, processed and eaten, but also on the language related to these foods".

"Passing on both language and plant knowledge to their children and grandchildren was a really important motivation for the ladies in creating this book, as well as sharing their knowledge with the wider community."

Additionally, co-authors Boyd Wright, Alan Yen, and previous Kiwirrkurra IPA Coordinators Kate Crossing and Rachel Paltridge played a crucial role in its creation.

Mr Wright played a vital role, contributing essential ethno-botanical knowledge and Pintupi-Luritja language skills.

His expertise was crucial in transcribing and translating the stories within the book and verifying specific details related to various bush foods.

"They hope it will be an inspiration for school children to learn more from their elders both through formal school activities and collaborations with the IPA, and through family trips," Ms Crossing said.

"There is already a strong partnership between the school and the IPA, and copies of the book have been gifted to the school and will be used in their lessons going forward."

In Kiwirrkurra, DSS supports the Kiwirrkurra people to run their IPA and Ranger programs, including all the activities that led to the publication of this book.

"We are very grateful for the financial support from NIAA for the IPA and Ranger programs, and Indigenous Desert Alliance for additional funding that supported the development and printing of the book," Ms Crossing said.

Limited copies of this publication are available for purchase through Tjamu Tjamu's Facebook page.

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