Australia: Sustainable harvesting of sandalwood and preservation of cultural heritage
Ensuring the heritage of Aboriginal voices in sandalwood sustainability.
Sandalwood is a natural, iconic, ingredient, widely used in global perfumery. The tree is native to Western Australia and is partially grown on the lands of Aboriginal Communities, such as the Martu.
Ensuring sandalwood sustainability
Environmental changes have brought about a shift in the sustainability of sandalwood trees in the region and a resource survey was undertaken, to assess its regeneration. It is of particular interest to the Martu as sandalwood represents a substantial source of income for their community. Consequently, Martu rangers were trained to detect, record, map and evaluate the different sandalwood categories. Additionally, a new Sustainable Sandalwood Management and Operational Plan has been finalised to ensure that protection measures and regeneration strategies of sandalwood resources are in place now and for the future.
Recording the legacy of the ‘Voices of Wiluna’
The cultural heritage of the Martu people includes stories and practices that relate to sandalwood. Much of this narrative and knowledge resides with the elders of the community, and is traditionally handed down through the generations. The ‘Voices of Wiluna’ is a film created to capture in vivid detail this verbal heritage with the Martu people sharing personal accounts of their lives, experiences, traditions and hopes for the future. A total of 15 interviews were conducted, and while the film is primarily intended for the Martu people themselves, it is also a fascinating testament to the indigenous people’s contribution to an industry that scents the world in perfumery.
The sandalwood tree is special to our people. We have been practising sustainability for all our lives and that’s why we exist. We do things sustainably for future generations and I encourage young people to join us. Sandalwood is their heritage, and their future.
Extract from ‘Voices of Wiluna’, Clinton, Martu Community Member