For my presentation, I chose to focus on native Australian food, which sustained the hunter-gatherer Aboriginal people for over 50,000 years. The Aboriginals referred to this style of cooking as the Bush Tucker/Bushfood method. From around 5,000 native food species, Bush Tucker/Bushfood is food made from the native plants, flora, and animals, fauna, which make up twenty percent of the Australian outback, otherwise known as the Bush. Because Native Australian fauna was dangerous to eat raw, the Aboriginals used various techniques in order to make it safely edible. For instance, often times seeds and vegetables were pounded and hung in bags under running water to wash away any potential poisons, animal meat was cooked over open fires, and bark troughs were utilized to boil water and food (SBS). When the European British settlers invaded and colonized Australia, they ignored the Aboriginals traditional use of the land for food, with the exception of fish, the quandong fruit, and the macadamia nut. Their ignorance of the Aboriginals use of food reiterated their behavioral patterns as “superior and preferable to those of another culture. Colonists often pointed to the foodways of the colonized as a sign of their uncivilized status; only inferior races could consume such strange and revolting foods” (Singly, p. 31). The settlers came with their own industrial approach, which was initially to grow imported foods, bringing with them inadequate food and knowledge of this foreign land. According to Hage, yearn for the utilization and substitution of food, as a means of familiarity and to build a sense of “home” was very strong during migration. “Food also provided a clear focus for practices of communality, especially in terms of collective eating whether in private or public spaces” (Hage, p. 9). However, the imposition of this new way of life on the Aboriginals came as a detriment to them in every aspect of their life, including their knowledge of native foods as well as their health. The loss of the Aboriginals traditional use of the land in conjunction with the depletion of available native foods resulted in the near extinction of their Bush Tucker cooking style.
With Colonial Australia dependent on imports, besides meat, the railways in the 1880s allowed more opportunity for other agriculture, such as sugar, milk, irrigated fruit, and wheat (Symons). Chinese immigrants, initially attracted to Australia during the Gold Rush of 1851, became local food suppliers from their gardens nearby. The discovery of milling, bottling and canning allowing foods and liquids to be preserved much longer, which encouraged Australian cooks to by these branded, processed foods. By the 1870s, factories were manufacturing much of the food that consumers purchased. My primary source was a newspaper article from May of 1994, entitled, “Bush Tucker beats junk, Aborigines told.” The article discusses a workshop that was held for over 200 Aboriginal people in which they were told to return to the traditional Bush Tucker cooking method in order to improve their health. The workshop emphasized that it costs nothing to go to the Bush and eat the native foods it provides, while going to places like Coles and Woolworths not only drains their pockets, but also their health, as Aboriginal people suffer from heart problems and diabetes. The article mentions by returning to Bush Tucker, these health issues would be drastically reduced, stating, “There's no fat in any of our food. Everything is just out there in the bush. So with this conference, I want to [bring back] the old ways more than the new ways.” Because many students and young people attended the conference, they would be able to pass down this knowledge of Bush Tucker that younger generations did not have. Many Aboriginal medicines were obtained from food, as a huge part of their health was dependent on eating right. Native Australian flora was used to cure illnesses in many ways, whether they were inhaled, drank, or applied directly to the skin (Symons). Although this newspaper article was directed towards Indigenous people, returning to the Bush Tucker cooking style can improve the health of non-Indigenous people as well.
The effects of the modern food industry on Australia have declined the health of not only Indigenous, but also non-Indigenous people. Cost cutting resulted in cheaper ingredients, artificial colors, and shortcuts, such as additives in flour to mass-produce loaves of bread, and dairy farms to significantly decrease. Chicken and pig meat production costs dropped, which meant that consumption multiplied considerably. Local food factories were taken over by national firms that were taken over by multinational corporations, whose marketing strategies consisted of using pre-prepared convenience foods, such as frozen meals, to increase value-added food consumption. This was later followed by fast food and takeout. According to the Symons reading, “Australians eat three times more meat than the world average with only one in ten Australian adults consuming sufficient vegetables, and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare classified cancer, coronary heart disease, and diabetes as the leading cause of ill health and death in Australia.” By returning to the Bush Tucker cooking style of the Indigenous people, not only will it improve the health of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, but also their knowledge of native Australian foods.
...(download the rest of the essay above)