CQUniversity unlocking the power of traditional medicines

02 March 2022

A new research initiative between CQUniversity and Ghungalu Elder Uncle Steve Kemp is set to unlock the power of traditional medicinal remedies through modern analytical chemistry and bioassay models.

The value of traditional medicine has not been fully realised in Australia' but the project aims to change that situation by characterising and measuring bioactive compounds that may have anti-oxidative' anti-bacterial' anti-cancer and anti-viral properties from plants materials and remedies sourced from the Central Queensland region.

Uncle Steve will be providing plant material harvested near his home in Woorabinda' as well as medicines prepared using traditional methods' for biochemical characterization by the CQUniversity Applied Chemistry team.

"This is a really exciting partnership for my people because it will hopefully provide recognition by Western science of the healing powers of our naturally derived medicines'" Uncle Steve said.

"This is an important step in bringing Indigenous culture and practices into mainstream Australian society' while in the long run this might also lead to a valuable commercial opportunity to employ people from our community to supply traditional medicines to a wider market."

CQUniversity has entered into an agreement with Uncle Steve' as custodian of the knowledge passed on to him by his Ghungalu ancestors' which will ensure the intellectual property rights and any potential commercial opportunities stemming from the project' remain with his community.

The research project is being led by CQUniversity Deputy Vice-President of Indigenous Engagement Professor Adrian Miller and Dr Mani Naiker and is funded through CQUniversity's Indigenous engagement activities sponsored by BHP and the BHP Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA).

Woorabinda Mayor Josh Weazel said the collaboration of CQU and Uncle Steve Kemp' signified both the recognition and acknowledgement of an intimate knowledge of his Country's resources' and solidified the place of Aboriginal people in Central Queensland to their rich coexistence and understanding of their natural resources and their medicinal properties.

"It also serves to acknowledge a lifelong journey of a very respected and deserved man of our community' who's foresight and unrelenting pursuit to explore the very real possibilities of traditional medicines' and how this can provide an opportunity for economic prospects for our First Nation community of Woorabinda and his people' with a product that is uniquely ours'" Cr Weazel said.

BMA Asset President Mauro Neves said they were proud to be a part of the collaboration.

"This collaboration has established a community-led pathway with the Woorabinda community to develop new business enterprise' research and engagement opportunities'" he said.

Professor Miller said traditional' naturally-derived medicines offered a huge opportunity for First Nation's people to create businesses and generate economic prosperity for their communities.

"For this to happen it is vitally important we respect the custodians of this traditional knowledge and support them with legal frameworks that ensures they will be the beneficiaries of any commercial opportunities that may arise in the future'" Professor Miller said.

Dr Naiker said the project was part of a wider research initiative at CQUniversity exploring both native Australian flora and commercial farmed crops for their potential pharmaceutical' nutritional and medicinal benefits.

"The study of natural products offers an excellent strategy toward identifying novel biological probes for several diseases'" Dr Naiker said.

"Native Central Queensland plants are believed to have the potential to suppress a wide range of ailments such as the influenza-type viruses' and through the application of contemporary biochemical analysis techniques we hope to characterize and measure exactly how potent these plant-based medicines can be in improving human health.

"One of the major objectives of our research team is to focus on the separation' isolation and structural elucidation of novel bioactive compounds from natural matrices that show potential bioactivities towards a range of ailments."

The BHP Chair for Indigenous Engagement role at CQUniversity develops key enabling strategies to promote self-determination within Indigenous communities in Central Queensland and has been supported by BHP and BMA for almost 10 years.