Play group, Bush Medicine and Aunty Joy

Last week, I visited two Save the Children offices in South Australia.  Most of the week was spent at the state office in Adelaide, but I took a day trip to the Ceduna office, which sits on the southern coast about 800km north west of Adelaide.  The flight was about 90 mins each way.  While in Ceduna, I attended a supported play group.  This was my first opportunity to visit to a program and see some of the children and families who are supported by Save the Children.  The supported play group provides a soft entry point for families to be involved with Save the Children activities.  Early childhood educators and family support workers run these programs.  In these sessions, the children generally have free play, then gather for some fruit, followed by mat time for reading and other activities.  The sessions generally run for 2 hours and are provided free of charge to the visiting families.  Referrals may be made to other services from this type of program.

As I entered the play group, I saw some Aboriginal women gathered around a table.  They were picking leaves from small twigs / branches.  When I wandered over to ask them what they were doing, I was introduced to an Aboriginal Elder (Susan), who told me that they were making bush medicine.  The plant leaves were gathered from the bush yesterday.  Susan told me the name of the plant (which I have now forgotten), but said it’s commonly referred to as “bush medicine”.  The leaves are hard, similar to rosemary, and can be either dried for tea or heated with butter / margarine to extract the plant oil.  After slow heating and simmering the leaves are strained and removed, then the oil mixture is poured into jars.  This plant oil mixture can be put onto scratches and abrasions for healing.  It can also be rubbed onto the skin for produce a calming effect.  The tea also provides the same effect.  Susan warned me not to “drink and drive” with this tea due to its sedative effect.  Susan gave me a leaf to chew on.  It left a tingling feeling on my tongue, a sort of like ginger tea.

I was given permission to take a photo of the women while they were working on the bush medicine.  One of the women in the photo is Aunty Joy Reid, who is a Save the Children staff member and an Aboriginal Elder.  She will be receiving an award for community service and will be flying to Adelaide to receive the award at the South Australian Government House later this year.  Prior to working with Save the Children, Aunty Joy established the first kindergarten for Aboriginal children in Ceduna.  She is extremely well respected and has worked to support Aboriginal children for over 40 years.  She is a great grandmother and one of her great grandchildren was in the playgroup that I visited.  It was a great honour for me to meet Aunty Joy.

aunty joy


  1. How cool! Loved reading about the play group – STC does some really important work! And really…what a gift to be in the presence of Aunty Joy! It really sounds like it was a great day!!

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