Cultural artefacts have been witnessed for tens of thousands of years. However, in the northeastern Victorian town of Mallacoota, a new centre for individuals to learn more about Indigenous fire management will open soon. The Indigenous Traditional Agriculture Knowledge Hub is being erected in the coastal inlet that was decimated by the Black Summer bushfires, in what is being branded an Australian first. Work is proceeding on a farm owned by Bruce Pascoe, author of Dark Emu and a Yuin, Bunurong, and Tasmanian ancestor.
“Country was cared for and repaired by traditional fire and land management. We’re rediscovering old processes and figuring out the best cost-effective ways to commercially grow local grains and tubers “Mr. Pascoe explained. Black Duck Foods, the farm’s business, is reinstating a variety of original customs and attempting to figure out how Indigenous people may profit financially. Employees Chris Harris, Nathan Lygon, and Terry Hayes produce Aboriginal delicacies such as chocolate and vanilla lily tubers, murnong (daisy yam), and spear grass grain. Mr Harris, who hails from Ngiyampaa in NSW, said, “We’re doing the hard work here right now so we can pass on our wisdom to the rest of our people.” In this way, they won’t repeat the same mistakes we did when starting an Aboriginal food business.”
The World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia supported the hub project, which supports a restoration to traditional Indigenous farming methods, including the use of fire. “Aboriginal people have used fire to manage the landscape for tens of thousands of years to increase the production of key foods while reducing the risk of damaging bushfires,” said WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman.
The on-farm research with Black Duck Foods also delves into how a European diet contributed to high levels of diabetes among Indigenous populations. “So much illness among Aboriginal people comes from a poor diet so I really look forward to the day when all Australians are eating these foods on a regular basis,” said Mr Lygon, a Yuin man with Walgal connections. People are responding to a return to Indigenous farming traditions, according to Black Duck Foods General Manager Chris Andrew. “Why not plant food that is native to Australia and doesn’t require fertiliser?” he said.”Traditional fire and land management approaches can help us restore resilient landscapes and better manage the effects of climate change.” It is without a doubt that it has provided food and shelter to Indigenous Australians for tens of thousands of years. Hence, many feel that it’s time to resurrect it.
Article by: Hari Yellina (Orchard Tech)