The role of natural products chemistry in the capability strengthening of Indigenous communities

E. C. Barnes, P. Yin, K. Akter, I. Jamie, C. E. Yaegl, S. R. Vemulpad, J. F. Jamie

    Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting abstract


    The Indigenous Bioresources Research Group (IBRG) and National Indigenous Science Education Program (NISEP) utilise natural products chemistry to achieve outcomes beyond fundamental chemistry research. In 2004, a partnership was established between the Yaegl Indigenous community, northern New South Wales, Australia, and Macquarie University researchers on the preservation, analysis and development of traditional plant knowledge to improve health and economic outcomes within this community.

    Comprehensive interviews led to the documentation of 90 medicinal plants [1]. Extracts and natural products isolated from plants used in the treatment of skin infections and wounds, areas with high national and global disease burdens, were then assessed for their antimicrobial and antioxidant activities [2, 3]. A number of bioactive natural products have been isolated and the formulation of plant extracts into healthcare products (e.g. antiseptic soaps and creams) is ongoing. This successful workflow has also been used in a partnership with an Indigenous community in Nagaland, North East India [4].

    During scientific discussions, Yaegl Elders also asked scientists the question, “Can you help us help our youth?” The Elders were concerned by the alarmingly low numbers of Indigenous youth completing secondary school and wanted novel ways to motivate them. This led to the establishment of NISEP, which uses science as an engagement tool to provide Indigenous youth with the skills and support to succeed in their secondary education and pathways to tertiary education. The students act as leaders of fun science-based activities which are presented to other students, parents/carers and the wider public.

    The IBRG and NISEP provide a framework for culturally competent research leading to the improvement of socio-economic outcomes for Indigenous peoples. Natural products chemistry is at the core of both these programs, demonstrating how it can be used to achieve multiple outcomes.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article numberP231
    JournalPlanta Medica
    Issue numberS 01
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


    • Traditional medicine
    • ethnopharmacology
    • bioactive
    • antimicrobial
    • science outreach


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