Essential Oils (2002)
Medicinal oil from the Waria Waria tree is providing villagers in Papua New Guinea with their only source of income.
[Camera shows images of a kaleidoscope of colours revolving and text appears consecutively: ‘healthy country, winning industries, know how, science, technology and then resolves into text sci files]
[Image shows villagers walking home carrying branches, bags and baskets and then the camera zooms in on their feet walking]
Narrator: These villagers wending their way home, have reason to be happy. The branches they’re carrying, not only contain a cure for coughs, pains, and infections, they could also provide them with an income; their only income.
[Image changes to show a lake with trees in the background and then the camera zooms in on the trees moving from the bottom to the top]
Waria Waria trees grow prolifically in Papua New Guinea’s Western province. It’s a type of melaleuca, and its leaves contain oil with basically the same medicinal qualities as eucalypt oil.
[Image changes to show native men doing a tribal dance and then the camera zooms out to show the village and some Australians from CSIRO being welcomed to the village]
The locals have long known its’ benefits, but they needed help to develop it into a viable industry. So they asked Australia’s science agency CSIRO for help. In partnership with the PNG National Forest Authority, the PNG Biological Foundation and ACIAR the scientists set to work to establish a sustainable essential oil industry.
[Image changes to show Dr. John Doran, CSIRO]
[Image changes to show a native man climbing a Waria Waria tree with a group of native men at the bottom collecting the branches and putting the leaves into a sack. The camera zooms in on the leaves in the sack]
Dr. John Doran: All sorts of claims have been made about the uses of benefits of the oil locally including solving baldness and curing malaria and so forth but basically the oil is a cineole rich oil like our medicinal eucalyptus oil and has very similar uses.
[Image changes to show sacks of leaves being emptied into drums and being trampled down. The camera then zooms out to show a portable still being lit]
Narrator: The oil is extracted from the leaves by distillation, so a portable, demountable still, was designed, for transporting on a plane from Australia and through the thick Papua New Guinea bush.
[Image shows the oil coming from a pipe in the side of the still into a drum]
And in May 1996 the first pilot still was set up in Bensbach.
[Image changes to show David Lea, CSIRO]
David Lea: The oil being lighter than water comes to the top and there are quite easy means to tap the oil off, separate from the water.
[Image changes to show an Australian man welding on the still and the camera zooms in on the actual weld]
Narrator: There are now five stills in three villages. But more information is needed about the region before a viable industry can be developed.
[Image changes to show Dr. John Doran]
Dr. John Doran: Part of this project we’re now engaged on, is surveying the natural resources of West Province for oils with potential for commercial development.
[Image changes to show scientists and native men cycling through the bush to complete a survey]
Narrator: Often the only way to carry out that survey is to set out on bicycles over hundreds of kilometres to study the local vegetation and determine sustainable harvesting techniques.
[Image changes to show Dr. John Doran and then image changes to show the villagers]
Dr. John Doran: The oil industry we hope will provide a substantial and sustained income for villages, like this, so the villagers can afford things we take for granted.
[Image changes to show the village]
Narrator: These villages have no power or water supply and little access to medicine.
[Image changes to show a bottle of Waria Waria oil on a bed of leaves and then the camera zooms in on three bottles of Waria Waria oil]
[Image changes to show the still and then the camera zooms in on the distilled oil]
Narrator: The Waria Waria oil is already popular in the Port Moresby markets, but it’s hoped that eventually the oil can find a wider market and create a viable local industry.
[Image changes to show a native man and then changes back to villagers dancing]
Male: It’s an opportunity that they’ve given to us and we are willing to continue with our product.
[Image changes to show the CSIRO logo and colours swirling over the screen and resolving into the text ‘sci files’]