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"Big Sister"

Gerald Turpin


To date, Gerry Turpin is Australia's only Indigenous Ethnobotanist, a career that records the Indigenous bioculture knowledge of Australia's native plants. Gerry was honoured with the inaugural scientist category for the 2013 Deadly awards which recognises Gerry's outstanding achievements in cultural advancement.

Gerry began his journey in his early years on the Atherton Tablelands and when he was 8 years, the family moved to Shepparton, Victoria. The family stayed in Shepparton for 8 years before moving back to the Tableland.

After leaving school, Gerry worked as a seasonal fruit picker and farm labourer travelling around Australia before starting a traineeship with the Department of Primary Industries as a Scientific Assistant in Brisbane, Queensland. The department changed names several times due to change of government and was called the Department of Environment and Heritage when Gerry was extended an Indigenous scholarship in Botany at the University of Queensland. This gave Gerry the opportunity to not only formalise his qualifications within the science of plants but also afforded him the opportunity to embark on a journey of recording and documenting Indigenous Biocultural Knowledge, working with many traditional owner groups in Far North Queensland, particularly Cape York. Gerry then became known as an Indigenous Ethnobotanist. Ethnobotany is the study of the cultural usage of plants for not only food but medicine, tools, utensils and even weapons. From this, Gerry, with the assistance of partners from CSIRO, Queensland Herbarium, Australian Tropical Herbarium and Traditional Owners established the Tropical Indigenous Ethnobotanical Centre (TIEC) at the James Cook University in Cairns. TIEC is housed within the Australian Tropical Herbarium

Further details of Gerry's work at the TIEC can be found here

Gerry's current work at the Australian Tropical Herbarium entails travelling out to remote communities to engage with these groups and foster relationships. This work is not just about science. This connection to country and mob that Gerry performs reawakens song lines, remaps trade routes and connects tribes in the sharing of knowledge that has far too long has been rejected, discarded and hidden.

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