The food diversity of Australia’s First Peoples was naturally determined by geographical landform, climate and season, creating a rich and varied diet. Much was due to their belief that human beings are the protectors and custodians of their local environments, which resulted in the development of sustainable methods of food harvesting and seasonal rules of consumption.
Despite the destructive agricultural practices introduced by the new Australians and the mass displacement of First Peoples from their lands, many native foods continue to exist and can still be pulled back from the brink of extinction. Slow Food in Australia is working towards this goal. Eight native foods have already boarded the Ark of Taste catalog of at-risk foods: the Pindan walnut, Bunya nut, Angasi oyster, Central Australian wild plum, desert qandong (native peach), Mullumbimy plum, Smooth Davidson plum, and the Finger lime.
Australia is an innovative country with many chefs, artisan producers and a thriving food scene. Today consum- ers also have access to native foods like emu, kangaroo, crocodile, Kakadu plum, mountain pepper, quandong, il boab, and Pindan walnuts, to name just a few.
However, although Australians pride themselves on having a multicultural cuisine, this is predominantly focused on European and Asian dishes. Much progress is still required to embrace native foods. Many First Peoples continue to harvest local native foods for personal consumption and share this produce with families and friends. Others have established small businesses that supply native food ingredients to wholesalers, retailers, restaurant and food services. Terra Madre delegates like Dale Chapman of Coolamon Food Creations and Pat Torres and Valerie Sibosado of Mayi Harvests & Minybarl have begun ventures in wild foods cuisine, bringing their unique Indigenous perspectives.
Other Australians in the food sector like Juleigh Robins of Robins Foods (the Outback Spirit brand), and Victo- ria and Andrew Fielke from Tuckeroo Food Services in South Australia have a direct link with First Peoples’ communities for their supplies. In turn, their involvement has contributed greatly to the wider access to and use of native foods that are sourced directly from communities and growers.
Bringing bush food into the limelight
The Red Ochre in Adelaide was one of the first restaurants to feature native wild foods on their menu, making their cuisine a highly prized gourmet food experience for the Australian public and tourists alike. Terra Madre chef Kylie Kwong from Sydney and newcomer chef Jock Zonfrillo from Adelaide followed suit, also bringing native foods into their restaurants.
Samantha Martin, an Indigenous bush tucker tour guide from Western Australia; Ali and Mitch Torres, Indigenous filmmakers with their Kriol Kitchen television program; and Mark Olive, an Indigenous chef from Melbourne with his Outback Café television series are contributing significantly to raising the profile of Indigenous food culture.
Increasing engagement through partnerships with Australia’s First Peoples and promoting a two-way respectful transfer of knowledge can help not only to protect native biodiversity but to incorporate these foods into the broader Australian food culture.