A delicious old man saltbush salad, with roasted sweet potato and ansie spicy tomato sauce (Credit: Three Little Birds).
A delicious old man saltbush salad, with roasted sweet potato and ansie spicy tomato sauce (Credit: Three Little Birds).

Growing demand pushes unique UQ bush food project

Native foods from custodial Queensland tribes will be used to promote and expand collaborations between commercial operations and Indigenous populations.

In a bid to support a demand for native food in the cuisine market, profits from commercial opportunities will go directly back to Indigenous communities.

The project, called A Deadly Solution: Towards an Indigenous-led Bushfood Industry, is a $1.5 million collaboration between Indigenous Traditional Owners and Custodians and the University of Queensland.

Professor Melissa Fitzgerald, who specialises her research in bush food, said there was a huge market for native food.

“It’s growing exponentially. It’s currently worth about $100m and it is growing very quickly,” Professor Fitzgerald said.

UQ Adjunct Professor Dale Chapman, Shannon Ruska, and Professor Melissa Fitzgerald. Photo: Supplied.
UQ Adjunct Professor Dale Chapman, Shannon Ruska, and Professor Melissa Fitzgerald. Photo: Supplied.

“A big driver is ethical consumption and wanting to eat food that’s not environmentally degrading.”

Professor Fitzgerald said consumers were soughing foods that grows with a small carbon footprint and that were Indigenous and native to Australia’s own food.

She said many of the bush tucker foods had unique flavours and compounds that provided medicinal, health and wellness values.

The Indigenous food sources will remain anonymous and are not currently in mainstream cuisine.

“We’re not going to ask what the names of the products are to protect the traditional knowledge,” Professor Fitzgerald said.

The five-year project was launched at the UQ Gatton Campus last Thursday and will bring researchers and Indigenous communities together to commercialise native bush foods and ornamental plants.

The UQ Indigenous bush food project team during the official launch at UQ Gatton. PHOTO: Supplied.
The UQ Indigenous bush food project team during the official launch at UQ Gatton. PHOTO: Supplied.

But Professor Fitzgerald said just one per cent of profits from bush foods went back to Indigenous people.

“The aim is to put any businesses that could develop bush foods and any commercialisation opportunities into the hands of the Indigenous people,” she said.

The project is led by UQ Adjunct Professor Dale Chapman, an Indigenous chef and CEO of My Dilly Bag.

Adjunct Professor Chapman grew up in Dirrinbandi, near St George, on the Yuwaalaraay and Kooma tribal lands.

“There are plenty of great bush foods out there that most people have never heard of, seen or tasted,” she said.

“Together we will be developing exciting – and delicious – native Australian bush foods, while creating sustainable, intergenerational Indigenous business.”


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