Widjabul elder Greg Harrington said Aboriginal people have used herbs for thousands of years and as a little fellow he remembered his grandmother using them for medicine whenever he got sick.
She would come back with something, mix it up and within a day I was back on my feet again, he recalled. And now these herbs are just not available. So weve got to get our people growing them for us. Weeds have taken over the forests, and access has been closed off through logging. Where I come from all the gates are locked. Theres also farmers using aerial sprays.
Greg gave the opening welcome at Tuesdays launch of a new guide aimed at helping indigenous people start herb or bush tucker businesses.
The native food industry is growing at a rate of 20 per cent a year and Australia currently imports more medicinal and culinary herbs than it exports.
That tells us theres a great opportunity for import replacement, said Steve Jamieson, chair of the Northern Rivers Indigenous Reference Group, which put out the guide. Its an emerging industry and could lead to economic independence for Aboriginal communities in the future.
He called it a practical, easy-to-use guide filled with tips on what, where and how to plant. The booklet also deals with the nuts and bolts of business and marketing.
Very few Aboriginal people experience what its like to be part of a small business, he said. One of the aims of this guide is to encourage and help Aboriginal people to set up enterprises.
Fred Binge, who owns the Bunawlbu Centre Caf in Bonalbo, said they had constant requests from customers interested in bush tucker foods and he was keen to learn more.
Were looking at setting up a plantation of our own bush tucker, he said.
Meanwhile, South Lismore Aboriginal caf GunnaWannaBe is holding a bush tucker night on Friday, October 6, from 6pm. The cost is $15 a head and the menu includes delicacies such as kangaroo roast served with wattleseed sauce, lemon myrtle fettucini and bunya nut damper. The caf will also be hosting a vegetarian night on September 29 from 6pm. Phone 6622 7094 for info.
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