Condoms of the future linked to tiny outback town

TO the Aboriginal people of Queensland's remote northwest, the clumps of spiky spinifex grass that grow in the red dust surrounding the border town of Camooweal play an important role in their connection to country and culture.

For thousands of years, the traditional landowners of the region, the Indjalandji-Dhidhanu people, have applied ancient scientific methods to extract resin from the plant, using it to craft tools and weapons.

Now, in the 21st Century, inside a Brisbane laboratory more than 2000km southeast of Camooweal, researcher Dr Nasim Amiralian, 35, is applying cutting edge science to turn spinifex into products for the modern world, among them super-strong, ultra-thin condoms and surgical gloves.

The University of Queensland project carries huge promise to create jobs - and a new industry - in one of the state's most remote areas where employment is hard to find.

At the same time, spinifex has given Amiralian, a talented Iranian-born textile engineer, a scientific lifeline.

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