Women working together to “bring Aboriginal yams back to the bush”

Dedication: Aileen Blackburn-Mongta striving to see Daisy yams survive in their natural environment.
Dedication: Aileen Blackburn-Mongta striving to see Daisy yams survive in their natural environment.

In the spirit of this year’s NAIDOC theme – Because of her we can – Aileen Blackburn-Mongta has shared her passion for the significance of restoring a traditional species of yam. 

Ms Blackburn-Mongta is a Monero Yuin woman who has been working with a small group of dedicated women to “bring traditional Aboriginal yams back to the bush”.

There are a number of different yam species, but Ms Blackburn-Mongta said the main yam species in the area is the daisy yam.

“A team of young Aboriginal women are keen to learn the knowledge and responsibility Aboriginal women have for yams on this country,” she said.

“We are keen to continue the tradition, and to create more awareness around the significance and special cultural role the yam has.”

By replanting the yam on the Monaro Tablelands, the group is striving to see the yam exit rescue mode. 

“My family line is connected to the coast and Monaro Tablelands, I learnt some of the things about yams through my Nan – some of the traditions that have been handed down for our women.”

Passion and significance for the yams lies in Ms Blackburn-Mongta’s heartfelt connection with her family and the land. 

“To be able to do what my elders have done on that same bit of country which hasn't been cared for in a cultural manner for near on 200 years is unbelievable,” she said.

“I can take my grandchildren and kids – and everyone will be able to go up to the bush and see that we have brought life back to that little bit of land.

“It is only one tiny little plant, but it is really special,” she said.

The seeds are brought to Jigamy Farm in Eden from the tablelands, and is a tricky plant to grow

“We get the natural seeds from country and bring them down and propagate them. We then take them back up to country and re-plant them,” she said.

“They are a heavy responsibility because they are not an easy plant to grow.

“They are temperamental and react to the climate, they respond to small climatic changes and will go to sleep and hibernate.”

Ms Blackburn-Mongta said the hard work pays off as the yam is an ideal food source.

“You can eat the stems and the root system and because it yields a lot of food from top to bottom it is perfect for catering for big groups.”