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Guriwal Bush Tucker Trail

Wedayeo muru Guriwal! Didjariguru naba guwaniyo miya. Ngeeyinee bulima nandiritah.
Welcome to the Guriwal Trail we thank you for remembering our Ancestors. May you always see the beauty of this earth.

Located in Centennial Park’s Fearnley Grounds, the Guriwal Trail was created to connect Parkland visitors with the Aboriginal cultural significance of native plants growing along the trail.
In May 2021, the Guriwal Trail Arts and Culture Installation was unveiled; a series of 12 interpretive signs and a virtual tour that inform visitors of the native plants and animals and their importance to ancient and continuing Aboriginal culture.
The Guriwal Trail is an important site for all Australians to learn more about the siginificance of this area and its connection to Aboriginal culture.  We hope the Parklands’ 31 million visitors each year explore the Guriwal Trail in their adventures.

Centennial Parklands sits on Freshwater Country which has been home to a diverse and complex kinship system of many Aboriginal communities including the Bidjigal, Gadigal, D’harawal, Darug, Eora, and Gaimaragal peoples.
Centennial Parklands’ Guriwal Trail recognises the long history of Aboriginal people on this land, and their connection to its diverse plant and animal life.  This place of learning was created by the Guriwal Aboriginal Corporation in 1998 and has been looked after by Centennial Parklands' volunteers ever since. The word Guriwal means whale, coming from the Gari Gurad (Saltwater Country) of La Perouse.
In 2000 Dharawal woman, Debbie Lennis, was employed by Centennial Parklands to further develop the Trail and to create interpretation artworks.
Restoration of the Guriwal Trail began in 2016 with guidance from Aboriginal staff members and local Aboriginal community groups. Community and corporate Parklands volunteers contributed 6,000 hours removing weeds, applying 100 cubic metres of mulch and planting more than 500 native plants. Many of the plantings were propagated by Centennial Parklands’ Nursery Growing Group who sourced seeds and seedlings locally, wherever possible.
Installation of new interpretive signage was the final stage of the Guriwal Trail restoration. Development of the signage was funded by support from the City of Sydney and Rotary Sydney. The Guriwal Trail Arts and Culture Installation brings to life the story of the local Aboriginal people who, for time immemorial, have recognised the continuing connection to this land, waters and communities.
Shannon Foster and Jo Paterson from Bangawarra designed three entry signs and 12 interpretive plaques

Shannon Foster is a D’harawal Saltwater Knowledge Keeper and Sydney Registered Traditional Owner. Shannon is an artist and interdisciplinary creative practitioner with over twenty years of experience in designing education programs and spaces in prominent Sydney learning institutions. Shannon’s doctoral research with the Centre for the Advancement of Indigenous Knowledges (UTS) addresses a large gap in site-specific, Sydney based Aboriginal knowledge, as she documents the stories and knowledges of her family - the D’harawal people of the Sydney region.

First Nations Wugulora/Karyouacou West African woman Jo Paterson Kinniburgh is committed to educating and practicing in a way that is respectful of the Aboriginal (hi)stories, cultures, languages and knowledges of Country. With experience in architectural practice since 1991 in Aotearoa New Zealand and Sydney, Jo embraces the negotiation between cultural protocols to find productive modes of Indigenous-Non-Indigenous collaboration.
The Trail’s Storyline

The Guriwal Trail is on important water Country.   The water Country narrative captures the essence of Centennial Park’s natural history, a place where a freshwater spring feeds a series of ponds (once a swamp) that flow into the nearby ocean. The three waters are:

The breeding of guwali (the cormorant) and the flowering of tacobah (the lily pily) are natural indicators that the warm weather is coming to an end and the cold weather is coming soon. It is time for the people to mend their animal skin cloaks and prepare for cold weather.

When Kaimeeagh (the gymea lily) begins to produce a flower it is a sign for the people to go to the coast and sing Gawura (the whales) in on their migration north to breed. When the flower of Kaimeeagh changes colour, turning brown, it is a sign for the people to return to the coast and sing Gawura in on its return migration south.
When Kai'arrewan (Myall wattle) begins to flower it is a sign that the weather is warming up and there will be heavy rains and flash floods. The flower also signifies that, Parra,  (the eel) is beginning its migration out of the freshwater and into the saltwater, making its way to the Coral Sea to breed.
Across Australia, there are many different Aboriginal languages and groups of people. Included here within these knowledges are words from local Sydney Aboriginal languages including those of the D’harawal, Dharug, Eora and Gundungarra peoples. Most of the plant names used here are common to all of the Sydney language groups and are specifically named if otherwise.
Scienctific name: Lomandra longifolia

Durawi (D’harawal eora) Edible grass
Bamuru (common Sydney language) grass.

Lomandra, commonly known as mat rushes, is a group of perennial native grasses. There are 51 species, all of which are native to Australia
Lomandra is an incredibly versatile plant that can be dried, treated and used for weaving and stringing. It also makes a delicious, refreshing treat when you are out walking as the white part on the bottom of the leaf can be chewed and sucked on for moisture.
  • The seeds can be crushed to make a paste that is cooked into a flat style bread
  • The roots are large tubers which can be cooked and eaten like potatoes
  • It naturally grows on the king tide line so don’t camp between Lomandra and the water or you might wake up floating down the river on a flash flood.
Scientific name: Dianella caerulea

Pokulbi (D’harawal eora)

Flax lily looks like a grass but is really a member of the lily family.
Flax lilies produce delicious blue berries in the D’harawal eora season of the Parra’dowee (the eel) between October and December each year. The white part at the bottom of the leaf can be cut to create a snake whistle which can be used when looking out for snakes.
  • The leaves can be used for stringing and weaving
  • Berries leave behind a purple blue stain and can be used as a dye
  • In the D’harawal story of Garrigan the blue tongue lizard, it was eating Dianella berries that made the lizard’s tongue blue.
Scientific name: Melaleuca quinquenervia

Boonagh (D’harawal eora)
Gurrundurrung (common Sydney language)

The broad-leaved paperbark is native to New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea and coastal Eastern Australia. Paperbarks occur naturally in swamps and love moist, sandy conditions, such as those in Centennial Parklands.

The paperbark has whitish papery bark that looks like many fine sheets of tissue paper stuck together. Trees from the Melaleuca family have aromatic oils in their leaves, which in some cases are used commercially.
Paperbark is used for many different purposes including as a cover for cuts and sores. The powdery dust found in the layers of the bark is a highly effective antiseptic that will help wounds heal.
  • When a baby is about to be born the mother carries around soft sheets of paperbark in a dilly bag around her neck for when the baby will need to be wrapped
  • Paperbark is used for wrapping food for cooking
  • Hair is held back using large strips of paperbark.
Scientific name: Syzygium smithii 

Dagubah/tacobah (D’harawal eora and common Sydney language)

Lilly pilly is a summer-flowering, evergreen tree, belonging to the myrtle family.
Lilly pilly produces delicious magenta-coloured berries in the D’harawal eora season of the Bana’marrai’yung (spotted quoll) between March and May every year.
  • Berries can be cooked with sugar to make a delicious, bright pink jam
  • When the berries drop from the trees it is time to mend your animal skin cloaks because the cold weather is coming
  • The berries from some varieties make an excellent pain killer for a sore tooth.
Scientific name: Casurina glauca

Dahl’wah (D’harawal eora)
Guman (common Sydney language)

Casuarina glauca is one   of 17 tree species in the family Casuarinaceae. 
The word Casuarina is derived from the Malay word for the cassowary, kasuari, because of the similarities between the bird's feathers and the plant's foliage.
The wood of this tree is incredibly strong. Young, straight saplings are used to make spears for hunting large mammals.
  • The seed pod is called a munya mali and is used to chase away bad spirits and worries
  • The tree is known as the safety tree or the baby sitter tree as the clearing around the trees creates a safe place away from reptiles. Children are told to wait with Dahl’wah if they get lost in the bush.
  • A small sapling can be bent and secured to the ground to create a frame for a gunyah (shelter made of wood and bark).
Scientific name: Pteridium esculentum

Goodji (D’harawal eora)
Gurgi (common Sydney language)

Bracken is a fern, so it has fronds rather than leaves and does not produce flowers or seeds.
Bracken fern root stems are highly toxic but if carefully prepared they can be ground to a paste and eaten. The young stems can be crushed and rubbed onto insect
bites to relieve itching.
  • The latex sap repels leeches when rubbed onto the skin of your feet and ankles
  • Young shoots can be baked and eaten but are toxic if not properly prepared first
  • Sap can be rubbed onto insect bites to relieve itching.
Scientific name: Acacia binervia

Kai’arrewan (D’harawal eora); Wadanguli (common Sydney language)

The myall wattle has blue-green, hairy leaves and rod shaped bright yellow flowers that appear in spring.
Myall wattle wood is strong and durable, making it perfect for creating tools and implements. The bark contains high levels of tannins which can be soaked out of the bark and used to tan skins and wooden weapons.
  • The seeds of most wattles are delicious in cakes and breads
  • If the flowers are yellow and the leaves are green the wattle is not toxic
  • Flowers are washed in freshwater to release the nectar making a very sweet drink.
Scientific name: Doryanthes excelsa

Kaimeeagh (This plant has retained its Aboriginal name)

The name gymea lily is derived from the name Kaimeeagh, given by the D’harawal eora.
The Sydney suburbs of Gymea and Gymea Bay are named after the lily.
The extraordinary flower of Kaimeeagh signals to the people that it is time to go to the coast and sing the whales in on their migration up and down the saltwater coastline.
The gymea lily flower creates a thick, syrupy nectar which is a highly sought-after delicacy. It is carefully harvested so as not to damage or kill the flower.
  • The flower spike of Kaimeeagh can be roasted and eaten at a particular size/age
  • Leaves are used to wrap food for cooking
  • Leaves are also used in stringing and weaving.
Scientific name: Eucalyptus robusta

Goolime (D’harawal eora)
Yarra (common Sydney language)

Eucalyptus is a genus of over seven hundred species of flowering trees, shrubs or mallees in the myrtle family, Myrtaceae. 
When gum trees lose a branch, bark forms a scar over the wound and creates a knot or burl. This knot is removed from the trunk and hollowed out to create a multipurpose wooden bowl or gulima.
  • Eucalyptus gum is a powerful analgesic and antiseptic
  • Gum can be dried and crushed and placed on a sore tooth to heal it
  • Wood is very strong and is used for tools, land spears and weapons.
Scientific name: Hardenbergia violacea

Warabura (D’harawal eora and common Sydney language)

Hardenbergia is a member of the pea family that flowers in late winter to spring with rich purple or white, pea-like shaped flowers.
It is also called “Happy Wanderer” because it is a vine/creeper that grows profusely.
The leaves of this plant are soaked in hot water to make a soothing tea. Early colonists called the drink ‘Botany Bay Tea’.
  • The vine is used in stringing and weaving
  • Purple flowers indicate warmer weather is coming.
Scientific name: Ficus rubiginosa

The Port Jackson fig begins as a seedling that grows on other plants or rocks (known as a hemiepiphyte). Fig seeds are often transported by animals that like eating figs such as birds, bats or possums.

Dhamun (D’harawal eora and common Sydney language)
Port Jackson Figs produces delicious fruit during the D’harawal eora season of the Parra’dowee (eel spirit) in November each year. The figs are especially good for stomach upsets and keeping you regular.
Dhamun is known as the teaching tree because of the large overarching canopy the tree creates making a space that blocks out distractions for the students
  • Freshwater is collected from the growth point between all of the branches
  • Figs are mixed with acacia sap to make a delicious sweet lolly.
Scientific name: Xanthorrhoea

Gulgadya (D’harawal eora and common Sydney language)

Grass trees are a group of about 30 species of slow growing, flowering plants. Fires will burn the leaves and blacken the trunk, but the tree survives as the dead leaves around the stem serve as insulation against the heat.
The resin found in the trunk of grass trees can be prepared to create an incredibly strong glue which is used to make tools and waterproof seals.
Gulgadya gum glue has been found still intact in archaeological excavations up to 2,000 years old.

  • The flower spike is used as a spear for fishing off the rocks as it floats and can be retrieved
  • Grass fronds are used in stringing and weaving
  • Nectar from the flower is used to make a sweet drink.