Leaf game E080341-006 Click to enlarge image
Eucalyptus leaf game from Yuendumu NT, made by Rosie Nangala Fleming. This grouping represents three men looking for girls. Donated by Rosie Nangala Fleming to Kate Khan on behalf of the Australian Museum in 1985. Image: Finton Mahony
© Australian Museum

The seven groups of eucalyptus leaves in our collection (made from 23 leaves in total) represent various social groupings. There is a mother and father with two children, widow and two children, father and two friends, five single women, three girls looking for men, three men looking for girls and a man.

The large leaves are the adults, and the small leaves the children. Donated to the Australian Museum in 1985 by Rosie Nangala Fleming, who picked the leaves, and used them to teach the girls about kinship relationships, where groups of people are located within the camp, and Dreamtime stories.

The following description adds further insight into the game as seen in Yuendumu;

The longest leaf was a man, a shorter leaf the woman, and the smallest leaf the baby. In one story a broken leaf was used to represent the infirm grandmother. The patterns were continually being changed to relate daily occurrences in the camp. For example, when the man went hunting, the long leaves were removed from the sand, leaving the women and children behind. Talking and chanting accompanied this activity throughout. The women who described this activity had been entertained in this fashion by their mothers and then left to continue the imaginary theatre.

Yuendumu, NT. Miller, Maria, Changes in the Games and Pastimes of Australian Aborigines, 1983.

More information

Haagen, Claudia, Bush toys: Aboriginal Children at Play, Aboriginal Studies Press Canberra, 1994.