Steve CranIf we reforested our planet's degraded, cleared lands with economically sustainable tree crops we'd be on our way to fixing many of the world's pressing environmental and social problems.
That's the thought I had when "permaculture" exploded in my brain seven years ago after watching an ABC show called "The Visionaries" on Bill Mollison and the permaculture concept. Within a month of being `possessed', I'd completed my Permaculture Certificate Course and was out designing and constructing food production systems for people in Brisbane. As my confidence grew I took on bigger and bigger projects from backyards to factory sites, walking tracks (snack tracks) to large farms and Aboriginal Communities across Australia.
My passion for Ecologically Friendly Food Production Systems that are also economically viable grows stronger each year. The Bush Food/Bush Medicine industry is a green giant waiting to be born. The potential of Australian native plants is staggering. We all know the bushfoods that are kicking the industry off, i.e. quandong, lilly pilly, lemon myrtle, wattle seed, etc. but there are thousands of potential products yet to be uncovered for commercial uses.
The Aboriginal people I have worked with closely for the past four years are keen to see most of their foods and medicines marketed as long as the planet is cared for and respected during production and Aboriginal people have meaningful, culturally appropriate employment in the bushfoods Industry.
I believe the bushfood/medicine Industry is the perfect forum for true reconciliation between European and Aboriginal people in Australia. To have a bushfood industry devoid of Aboriginal involvement has as much appeal as a plastic boomerang made in China! When we can create true partnerships between our races in the production, value adding and marketing of bushfoods and bush medicines we start to see some real magic happen at all levels. I have been involved with and observed many employment projects in Aboriginal communities.
I have seen millions of taxpayers dollars wasted in trying to convert "Black Fellas" into "White Fellas"! White Australians want to work 9 - 5 real hard and "get somewhere". Aboriginal Australians want to live peacefully with the land and their extended families.
Aboriginals have inbuilt into their culture that they share everything. An employment project selects a young man or woman from a large Aboriginal family and sends them off to work each day whilst the rest of the "mob" might go fishing, hunting, or wild food gathering.
It is difficult for the individual to separate themselves from the activities of the group. On pay day the whole family shares the wages earned by the one or two family members working. Hard for that person to see any value in working in a "job". Couple this with the rest of the family receiving Social Security Benefits and you can see how ineffective these employment projects can be
CSIRO report - Acacia
I won't touch on the matrix of other problems Aboriginal people are faced with when dealing with our system.
One solution for a win/win for both parties lies in family group employment. Whether it's wild harvesting or commercial production on a farm or traditional land employing family groups, it is much more culturally appropriate and effective. An example of this kind of operation would be a community employment farm. This may be on tribal land administered by a local Aboriginal Corporation, i.e. land council or CDEP (Community Development Employment Program).
Various interested family groups are trained and assisted in planting and maintaining their own part of the farm or their own species, i.e. the Bates family take care of the quandongs and the King family take care of the Bush Bananas, etc.
The European involvement in this kind of enterprise would take the form of administration, marketing, product development, etc. Each enterprise would have to be negotiated with the community individually. Each community will be different and will require a skilled negotiator to put together an enterprise that will bring the community (white and black) together, be economically and environmentally sustainable and culturally appropriate.
Aboriginal families have their own built in discipline systems and ethics. Some families are more suited to this form of enterprise than others. A family group is strong when it is motivated by its elders and the various age groups within its structure. All find a place in a culturally appropriate enterprise. European land holders who wish to go into partnerships with local Aboriginal people will find family group employment most effective, if it is productivity based instead of wages.
I do not profess to be an expert on Aboriginal affairs but I've seen a lot of money wasted and damage to communities done by projects that don't take into account Aboriginal culture, or the wishes of the community when those projects were conceived.
Across Australia are huge tracts of degraded pasture land waiting to be turned into Bushfood and medicine production systems. Some land is owned by Aboriginal people, some by European and on some land both races cooperate for various uses of the land. I know it is possible to create a win/win situation for the land, the peoples and the emerging bushfood and bush medicine industry. Steve Cran
Steve is a permaculture project officer who undertakes "hands on" , teaching through projects, understanding that a working model is the best teacher. He believes we need to create new models (or have a more sensitive eye for the old models) to enable us to see a positive future.
Australian Native Produce Industries
Grow Bushfoods with superior planting material, for farmers, home gardeners and re-veg projects.
Produce buy-back for larger growers of certain crops
Currently seeking expressions of interest in contract growing of selected species of Quandong and Native citrus
A comprehensive range of quality bushfood plants (from tropical to arid to alpine) in tubes and larger containers - including bush tomatoes, wattleseed, riberries, lemon aspen, Illawarra plum, mountain pepper, lemon myrtle and much, much more!
Australian Native Produce Industries (Nursery)
PO Box 163, Paringa, SA 5340
(08) 8595 1611 (Ph). (08) 8586 4511 (Fax)