Dhungala cool burn

Treahna Hamm (b.1965)
Bush medicine and knowledge has been connected to what is known as 'cool burns' in many parts of traditional Aboriginal homelands usually practiced during Autumn months. Low intensity fire was/is done to manage and maintain plant, tree and grass growth. It regenerates and brings into being new growth, buds and shoots continuing the cultural process of gathering food and medical resources. This process was part of vast knowledge which is held between the sky, land, people and wildlife all connected within lore and story to people and land. Cool burns were also practiced to clear built up areas of bush land so that hunting and gathering would be easier and foods and bush medicines more clearly recognized within the environment.

The triptych depicts traditional times of Yorta Yorta women and girls collecting bush foods and remedies with their dilly bags hung from their shoulders – after cool burning occurs. The figures stand in honour of ancestral knowledge along the bank of dhungala (the Murray River) which is also symbolized also by the hands of ancestors who hold billabong sediment. This also contains the symbolism of healing along with the continued benefits of medicinal knowledge hand in hand with spirituality in over 2000 generations of people on country.

The oval shapes in the foreground are coolamons and within them are seeds, pods and reeds that have been gathered before the cool burning took place. The coolamons have been painted with local river bark ink from the River. Its use is vastly versatile as the bark ink is also used in the creation of medicine within Yorta Yorta country.

Dr Treahna Hamm

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Object detail

acrylic paint, river sand, bark, ink, paper on canvas
100.9 x 114.0 cm (each panel)
Accession Number
Credit line
Purchased 2017
Object Type
Named Collection
Medical History Museum Category


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