Over 60,000 years. Indigenous food knowledges have continued to develop and refine a variety of methods for the processing, cooking, and preserving of native flora and fauna. Indigenous native foods are commonly referred to as ‘Bush Tucker’ and are notably nutrition-dense, sustainable food options for the Australian continent.
Indigenous food knowledge ranges from the agricultural practices used to farm crop plants, to the intricate traps engineered to filter and capture eel populations, medicinal and health properties of native foods, and the preservation methods used to prepare meats for long distance transport.
In this section, we provide resources relating to these areas.
Food and agriculture
Anyone living in Australia is familiar with the variety of climate and landscape Australia holds. Over thousands of generations the local peoples of each Nation mastered their local knowledge of edible foods, including the preparation of some notable foods which are inedible without safe preparation. As I child all this sounded amazing to me and so different. But if we think carefully about what we learnt growing up, it’s no different. Who didn’t hear about not eating potatoes that had gone green and of course, that they are inedible before being cooked? I also grew up collecting field mushrooms where collection of the wrong type could make you very ill. What is different in Australia is that the Indigenous communities hold this knowledge and up until very recently very little value has been placed on any of these foods. And of course, there is so much knowledge because each area holds it’s own array of species and interactions with the natural environment.
Now that interest is growing and lime fingers can be sold for $150/kg to hipster restaurants, local groups face the challenge that their local foods are now making others money and they find themselves once again disenfranchised. Groups like Supply Nation can help rectify this but it is important to educate the public on the important issues in the industry too.
Below are two very different videos that span the full range of food and agriculture, from historical recounts of the first explorers and settlers to important issues as we see Bush Foods enter the main stream.
Many sources of information about Indigenous foods are not much more than a pretty picture and a link to a western recipe where one ingredient is swapped out for a bush food. While these pages have their place there is little to no educational content or potential. Below are some summary resources with a lot more depth.
- Rethinking Australia’s agricultural past, a conversation with Bruce Pascoe and Bill Gammage (audio with transcript).
- Aboriginal foodways: Towards a return of native food in Australia (Sustainable Food Trust)
- Deadly Story; Food and AgricultureThe world’s first Bakers with Bruce Pascoe
- For those of you adept at navigating the Australian Curriculum. There are numberous resources which can be used to gain ideas and background information with the base ideas being suitable for use at University (e.g. removal of toxins from cycads before eating).
- The ARC Training Centre – Uniquely Australian Foods
- Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park – includes tool useage and food processing (Anangu people)
- Noongar seasons and food (Kaartdijin Noongar) includes a brief history and language guide.
- Food in Victoria: Aboriginal people, land and food.(State Library database) The State Library of Victoria has a database of information dedicated to Aboriginal knowledge systems relating to food and land.
- Fishing the Old Way: Indigenous Fish Traps of Western Australia featuring Menang man, Harley Coyne, discusses the fishing sites of the Menang community that they are working to preserve.