REAL AUSTRALIA

Voice of Real Australia: Can You Smell The (Wattle Seed) Coffee?

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Tom Melville with Dja Dja Warrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation CEO Rodney Carter at the corporation's kangaroo grass research project near Bendigo. Picture: Supplied

Tom Melville with Dja Dja Warrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation CEO Rodney Carter at the corporation's kangaroo grass research project near Bendigo. Picture: Supplied

Imagine for breakfast having Kakadu plum jam on two freshly toasted slices of kangaroo grass bread, a hot pot of wattle seed coffee steeping on the kitchen table.

Australia leads the world in a lot of areas, and our agricultural sector is certainly one of them. But that scene described above is, at this point, just a dream. By and large, the huge diversity of native Australian foods isn't cultivated on a commercial scale.

At the moment native foods are a boutique item, often expensive and difficult to find. Kangaroo meat and macadamia nuts are perhaps the only foods most of us would recognise, but there are thousands of species of grasses, fruits, seeds, tubers, and nuts which grow around Australia and have been cultivated by Traditional Owners for thousands of years.

The push to commercialise these is still relatively new but there's a lot of research being done to work out the best way forward, and First Nations Australians are leading the way.

There's an untapped market there waiting for farmers to get involved and there's a cautious optimism that bush foods could answer some of the big questions facing Australian agriculture over the next few decades. Namely, how do you farm livestock and crops ill suited to an environment which is getting drier and hotter?

Worimi farmer Josh Gilbert on his family's cattle farm near Nabiac in the Hunter Region of NSW. Picture: Tom Melville

Worimi farmer Josh Gilbert on his family's cattle farm near Nabiac in the Hunter Region of NSW. Picture: Tom Melville

The thinking is that bush foods are meant to be here, they've survived everything this continent has thrown at them for tens of thousands of years. They require less water and are less taxing on the soil and could have a regenerative impact on the landscape.

On this week's episode of Voice of Real Australia's podcast, I talk to Indigenous farmers who are keen to lead this possible revolution in Australian agriculture. So far only around one per cent of profits from the fledgling bush foods industry go to Traditional Owners, and there's a push to rectify that -- to get First Nations people into farming, providing employment pathways.

Indigenous farmers like Josh Gilbert, a Worimi man from Nabiac about 90 minutes north of Newcastle, in NSW's Hunter region, are anxious that the huge opportunities on the table won't benefit First Nations People. There's an underrepresentation of Indigenous people in agriculture generally and Josh believes that leaving them out of the bush foods space - using the foods which nourished his people for millennia without their permission or their direct benefit - will just add to the harm they've suffered since colonisation.

The First Nations people I spoke to are excited about what's to come, about healing the country and providing opportunities to people at the same time, and about using the knowledge they've built up over thousands of years. But there's also anxiety after centuries of exclusion and exploitation.

To learn more about the situation, tune into our Voice of Real Australia podcast. Listen and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or your preferred podcast platform. Just search Voice of Real Australia.

There will be no Voice of Real Australia newsletter on Good Friday or Easter Monday, but we'll be back with you on Tuesday, April 6.

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