Bush tucker project puts down roots

CUPPA, ANYONE? Helen Duroux is stocking up on bush tucker products from other regions as she pioneers a New England bush tucker industry.
CUPPA, ANYONE? Helen Duroux is stocking up on bush tucker products from other regions as she pioneers a New England bush tucker industry.

Moonbahlene Local Aboriginal Land Council is gearing up to make a big impression on the bush tucker market, with a multi-pronged approach to tap into popular food niche.

Helen Duroux has thrown herself into a Certificate III in Horticulture (majoring in Bush Food Production) at Wollongbar TAFE, a plant nursery is being established in town with the LALC’s Leech’s Gully block being prepped for growing out, and plans being put in place for wild harvesting.

When the Star caught up with Ms Duroux she was concocting a proprietary dukkah mix comprised of bush food, with the value-added market also in view.

Moonbahlene secured a $41,000 grant to establish a bush tucker nursery, under the NSW Aboriginal Land Council Covenant Development Funding program. Ms Duroux said the program assists smaller land councils with community upskilling projects.

She said being aboriginal she has always been interested in bush tucker, and the endeavour has risen up the land council’s priority list given its capacity to boost employment, education and training in the local aboriginal community.

“Down the coast they’re having great success (with bush tucker), but no-one else in New England is doing it,” Ms Duroux said.

Seedlings will be propagated in a nursery behind the land council’s shed on Railway Avenue, and then transplanted onto its 4.5 acre block at Leech’s Gully and elsewhere. Ultimately workers will be able to harvest from the plantings and the land council will have bush tucker products for sale, but that’s still some way down the track.

Being a pioneer of the industry in New England comes with its challenges, with the region’s varieties and their growing requirements less well known. Even Ms Duroux’s TAFE course focuses on plants for warmer climates, making it difficult for her to complete practical assignments through Tenterfield’s cold winter.

Still she said there are ways and means to extend the growing season, and she’s prepared to try all of them. One of the first tasks will be to create a database of plants that are suited to this climate.

Ms Duroux sees the project as an opportunity to provide both Work for The Dole and paid employment, and she hopes to extend the project to get the whole community involved.

She’s seeking approvals to explore crown and private lands for established populations of bush tucker plants or even to create new ones, to provide even more employment and increase production from wild harvesting.

She has some big plans, including tapping into the industry’s tourism, educational and marketing potential both culinary and medicinal.

“The health benefits aren’t being realised,” she said. “It’s an untapped resource.

“We (the Aboriginal community) are working on closing the health gap ourselves, so this could help.”

Ms Duroux see the business eventually being a part of the new Tenterfield Farmers Market with its organically-grown bush tucker and all the benefits.

“We could all live healthier lives,” she said.