Australia in the Before Time


Indigenous bush medicines varied according to the geography and climate of the land, the cultural practices of the group and the resources available. They could include aromatic herbs, grasses and tannin-rich inner barks that had therapeutic effects. There were treatments for burns, headaches, eye infections, digestive upsets and toothaches. Jellyfish stings and snakebites were common ailments, as were injuries from fighting and hunting in the bush.

Indigenous groups used a range of remedies including wild herbs, animal products, steam baths, clay pits, charcoal and mud, massages, string amulets and ceremonial songs that varied from one region to the next and one language and cultural group to the next. Some plants had alkaloids or other compounds with pronounced healing effects. Aboriginal remedies varied between clans. The healing of small non-spiritual ailments, using herbs and other remedies, was practised by all Indigenous peoples, although older women were often the experts. To ensure success, appropriate spiritual practices, which could be in the form of song and dance, were often prescribed side-by-side with plant-based remedies.

Indigenous peoples often believed that serious illness and death were a direct result of their spiritual beliefs and connected strongly with the land and the spirit world. Cultures were rich in meaning and didn't embrace the possibility of chance or accidental injury and death.

Spiritual leaders had great wisdom, power and stature within the group. They were often identified as a young person, trained from an early age by Elders and initiated into the deepest knowledges and understandings of their culture. Only these trained people could diagnose the cause of serious illness or death, and only they could cure someone.

A snapshot of NaN

  • January
    • The Royal Society approached King George III for financial assistance to fund an expedition to observe the transit of Venus from the South Seas.

  • April
    • The ship HM Bark Endeavour (formerly the Earle of Pembroke) was commissioned by the British Royal Navy Board to undergo a voyage to the South Seas. She was to be captained by Lieutenant James Cook.

  • July
    • Cook was involved with fitting out HM Bark Endeavour while moored in Deptford.

  • August
    • Lieutenant James Cook left Plymouth Harbour for Madeira.

  • November
    • Cook wrote to the Royal Society complaining of the poor treatment he received from the Portuguese viceroy at Rio de Janeiro. The viceroy believed that Cook's real purpose was smuggling or piracy.

More resources


{tpl region name=footerbottom}