Wednesday What is it:
What is:  The Grass Tree Gathering by Lisa Hunt-Wotton

The Grass Tree Gathering is a very important movement of the Holy Spirit that is happening in Australia.  I think that it’s really important that everyone understands what is happening in the lives of our indigenous brothers and sisters in this nation.

They will be called trees of Justice,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendour.

They will rebuild the ancient ruins
    and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
    that have been devastated for generations.

Isaiah 61:3-4

I had the joy of being introduced to the movement of ‘The Grass Tree Gathering’ earlier this year.  I then had the privilege of spending some time with Brooke Prentis at the Justice Conference.  Brooke is an aboriginal leader who is working hard to be an advocate for her mob by building communication and understanding of first Australians, their desire for justice, and the hope of a future in Australia where everyone has a seat at the table.

Brooke Prentis is a descendant of the Waka Waka nation of Queensland, a member of the TEAR Australia Board and also on the committee for Dhumba, TEAR’s Indigenous Support Program. She is also the Coordinator of the Grasstree Gathering. Brooke says the Grasstree Gathering has been a source of hope for not only her, but other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Christian leaders.

“The Grasstree Gathering has been life changing for me. It’s unique. It’s inspiring. It’s empowering. The Grasstree Gathering is a movement of God’s Spirit and it’s exciting to be a part of it.”

We recognise the value of gathering together, sharing stories of hope and encouragement. Therefore, becoming even more ‘immensely useful, versatile resources’ to the communities from which we come from, to Christian ministry, and to the leadership of Australia.

I love the scripture that has been chosen for their mission statement.  Particularly the verse:

They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated;  they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations”.  This is the heart of The Grasstree Gathering, their vision and their mission.  It is the work of justice in this nation and for it’s original people.

The Grasstree Gathering is a national, inter-denominational and non-denominational event which brings together emerging and established Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian leaders from across Australia and from across denominations and churches.  Grasstree Gathering’s vision is to celebrate, encourage, equip and inspire an emerging generation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian Leaders. http://grasstreegathering.org.au

We have named our gathering of emerging and established Indigenous Christian Leaders “The Grasstree Gathering” because of the symbolic parallels we have to the Grasstree.

Why the Grasstree?

 A traditional Aboriginal favourite, the Grasstree (also known as Blackboy) is a slow growing and natural architectural feature of the Australian landscape. They can live for many hundreds of years in harsh environments. Yet, today their survival is threatened.

This painting is by Safina Stewart.  Here is her interpretation of the Grasstree:

 “Each Grasstree is different yet strong in its uniqueness and capacity. Despite being rooted at a cliff edge and surrounded by fog, they stand together, dignified and tall in their purpose”.

Grasstrees-600x900

Grasstree by Safina Stewart

The Grasstree

To our Aboriginal people the Grasstree has always been a precious resource. Each part of the grasstree can be utilised – the seeds can be ground for flour, the tender white leaf bases are edible, its nectar can make sweet cordial, its resin used like glue, and its fibres and stalk used to make tools and weapons. The Grasstree is an immensely useful, versatile resource.

As a food source, the white, tender sections of leaf bases, the growing points of stem and succulent roots were all eaten regularly. The removal of the growing point was rare as it destroyed the plant altogether. The seeds were collected and ground into a flour to provide dough for cooking a type of damper, within the ashes of a wattle wood fire.

They frequently dug out edible grubs found at the base of the trunk. The grub’s presence could be detected by the observing the dead leaves in the centre of the grass tree crown.

Small sweet pockets of honey could also be extracted from the carpenter bee’s cellular nests, which were often bored in the soft pith of the flower stalk.

To wash this down, the nectar from the flower could be extracted by soaking it in water filled bark troughs, to produce a thick sweet drink. A citric flavoured alcoholic brew could be made from fermenting the nectar over 3 to 5 days. An extra tang was added to the brew by crushing a few ‘formic’ ants into the beverage.

Though not specifically a plant for fibre it was very useful in crafting of aboriginal tools. The light straight flower stalk served as a butt-piece for spears. A tip section of tea tree would then be attached to the end of the spear and hardened in the fire before used for hunting.
Although not specifically a plant for fibre it was very useful in crafting of aboriginal tools. The light straight flower stalk served as a butt-piece for spears. A tip section of tea tree would then be attached to the end of the spear and hardened in the fire before used for hunting.

Mainland Aboriginals used pieces of very dry flower stalk for making fire with a drilling stick.

The leaves produce a hard waterproof resin, which could be collected from the base of the trunk. This resin melts when wanned, but sets hard when cold. It had a number of uses including;

▪Forming glue by mixing it with charcoal, beeswax or fine sand and dust.

▪Gluing the cement stone heads to wooden handles and spears to shafts and tips.

▪Waterproofing bark canoes and water carrying vessels.

The versatility of this resin in the every day lives of the aborigines, made it a valuable trading item and was traded amongst tribes for other important collectables.

Though the grass tree has been of immense value to the aborigines and colonists, its future lies in the hands of the landowners and nature reserve managers, who are blessed with the woodland remnants which support the remaining populations. 

It is a true icon of the Aussie bush and as such, provides a unique identity to our Australian landscape.

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Love Lisa

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