A visitor to Australia meets up with Jan Sinclair of Mother Nature's Bush Tucker.
By Leva Galdulis Woman
Jan Sinclair was initially introduced to us as the 'Bush Tucker Woman'. Our first guess at what bush tucker might have meant fell short of the mark. We were familiar with the word "bush", as it's a common word used for forest and the outback in Australia, but "tucker"? Perhaps it was an Australianized word for the American word "trucker"? Later we were informed that tucker is the colloquial word meaning food, which originated from the British word "tuck", also meaning food.
Although a simple word, bushtucker itself is not so easy to find when you don't know what you're looking for. Many of the early settlers struggled needlessly trying to grow crops unsuitable to the soil and climate or died of starvation and thirst in the outback.
The Aborigines hadn't yet shown them the Indigenous food supply growing in abundance around them.
Jan first became interested in bush tucker over eight years ago while teaching art in an Arnhem Land school where half of the enrolment was Aboriginal. It was during this time that she realised she had a deep affinity for the original Australians and their way of life. She began to learn about the land as told by the Aborigines and became herself a student.
Now, Jan gives workshops, not only to government sponsored adult education programmes, but she was even asked by the local Aboriginal Centre in Tweed Heads to teach their young about the bush tucker their great grandparents used to collect. She's also become a local celebrity and can be heard on radio talk shows giving advice to gardeners who would like a beautiful garden with native edible plants and fruits. The local papers have run articles about her many projects, one of which is to encourage residents to reforest their land with plants endemic to Australia, using a Permaculture approach. If her plan is supported, by the year 2000 tourists would see a more natural picture of Australia and ecologically the land would benefit.
Having done training at the Permaculture Institute, Jan is now involved in setting up a network of experts. The team which includes an architect, an agrcuIturalist, a landscape designer and an edible landscape consultant, will give their advice and help design the homes and landscapes of people interested in this natural and practical form of living with nature.
"The interest is growing", says Jan "and people's attitudes and ways of approaching nature are changing. However, like learning bush tucker or planting a nature-friendly garden, it takes time and patience before you see the results and reap the benefits."
After a meal (Lemon myrtle tea, Dianella berry and wild berry jam and pancakes), we were shown the garden. Garden? What appeared to be a wild forest of high trees and bush to Jan was 10 years of daily planting and nurturing.
A full lecture ensued as Jan pointed to certain plants and gave detailed descriptions of their uses, both as food and medicinal herbs.
There are over 250 edible plants recorded in the Tweed area alone. Now we have books to take with us into the forests and bush to learn by. Yet, the Aborigines had only their experience, powers of observation and patience.
As the afternoon came to an end, we said our goodbyes and left with the feeling of having been lovingly guided through mother nature's "wonderfull" garden.
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