Noongar Land Enterprise Group (NLE) and the Food and Agribusiness Growth Centre (FIAL) has launched a report exploring how to grow the Australian Bush Produce Industry with Aboriginal participation.
Australian Bush Produce, which includes native or bush foods and botanicals, is a growing industry – largely due to increasing consumer demand for alternative food and botanical products that are environmentally sustainable and have positive outcomes for human health and nutrition.
The growth of the industry is being driven by demand from the restaurant industry, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverage industry, and retail markets that supply home cooks and other consumers. To date, the focus has been on a small number of species, such as wattle seeds, lemon myrtle, sandalwood, bush tomato and the Kakadu plum.
In 2012, the Bush Produce Industry was estimated to be valued between $15 and $25 million, employing over 1,000 people. Aboriginal knowledge has contributed to the commercial development of Bush Produce products including processed raw ingredients, gourmet sauces, pies and jams and new varieties of bush food plants.
Unfortunately, only a small proportion of this value flows back to Aboriginal people with Aboriginal participation valued at less than 2 per cent of the industry’s value.
NLE launched Yoordaninj-bah (Noongar Ballardong language for the coming together of diverse groups to establish and form a very strong, mutual bond), a national project funded by FIAL and the Commonwealth Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, in 2019. Yoordaninj-bah’s key objective was to identify how Aboriginal peoples and their communities may benefit from the commercial production of identified Australian Bush Foods.
The “Yoordaninj-bah” report summarises the findings and recommendations of the project which was comprised of four activities:
- A national consultation with Aboriginal communities across Australia on how best to develop an Australian Bush Food Industry;
- Identifying and implementing an engagement model including appropriate cultural protocols to raise awareness and encourage participation in the project;
- Mapping identified Australian Bush Food species across Australia and highlighting the nutritional medicinal values; and
- Creating a Business Case for an Incubation Hub.
Key to this is the Commonwealth Government ratifying the Nagoya Protocol so that the rights of Australia’s First Nations people are protected. The ratification of the Nagoya Protocol was a key part of the Marramarra Murrru (Creating Pathways) Communique that came from the recently held First Nations Economic Development Symposium. Also required, is the need to develop comprehensive legislation so that one set of rules apply Australia-wide so that the rights of Australia’s First Nations people are protected.
“Using the funding from FIAL, what we’ve been able to do is engage with Aboriginal people and create a forum where they told us where the gaps are and what support is needed to enable greater participation by them in the Bush Food Industry,” NLE Group CEO Alan Beattie said.
“We’re looking forward to continuing this journey and putting in place the solutions that came out of the program.”
According to Dr Mirjana Prica, managing director at FIAL, FIAL’s mission is to grow the share of Australian food in the global marketplace and provide businesses with an avenue for growth.
“With the Yoordaninj-bah project, NLE has provided the Aboriginal people and their communities an opportunity to grow their share in the agri-food industry,” Prica said.
“Through the project, models were explored that can be adopted broadly like Grower Groups or cooperatives and found to align with the strengths of Aboriginal culture, including collaboration and sharing of benefits for Aboriginal people and the broader good. But this can only be achieved if there is a shared investment by government and industry together with research across Australia to build a contemporary, Aboriginal-led, Bush Produce industry.”
NLE is located on Noongar Boodja (South-West Western Australia) and is one of Australia’s first Aboriginal Grower Groups. The Aboriginal-led organisation is focused on inspiring, educating and assisting Noongar people to advance demonstrable business success centred around land management enterprises.
For the full report, visit www.fial.com.au/sharing-knowledge/nle-report.