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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

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Goonjal (bush yam tree), 2018

by Shirley Purdie

“This is that bush yam. This is my mother (right) and he bin teach me (left) for diggin’ when I bin a little girl. This tucker now, this potato or root. When this tree gets yellow, that’s the time we go and dig him.”

This is bush tucker knowledge Shirley’s mother passed down to her. When she was a young girl, around ten years old, her mother would teach her how to dig up the root of the bush yam tree. She learned that when the tree flowered yellow, it was the correct time to dig up the roots. Generally, this happens in ‘wangan’ or cold weather/winter. However, Shirley has noted that climate change is affecting the seasonal flowering, and sometimes this tree bears yellow flowers when it is not supposed to.

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