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ATSIC welcomes economic opportunities in bush food initiative.

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Media Release

ATSIC Welcomes Economic Opportunities in Bush Food Initiative


22 April 2002


Plans to establish a bush food industry in North Queensland will see new economic and employment opportunities for local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people according to ATSIC.

ATSIC will join FNQ Employment in hosting a workshop, “Bush Tucker Opportunities”, for representatives of Indigenous communities tomorrow.

FNQ Employment is funded by the Commonwealth Department of Transport and Regional Services and aims to support economic growth through job creation and small business success with a focus on projects which will improve the job prospects of indigenous Australians.

The workshop will hear from the Coles Indigenous Food Fund and Robins Australian Foods which have developed an arrangement with Aboriginal communities in Central Australia to provide bush-food to both domestic and international markets.

ATSIC Cairns & District Chair Terry O’Shane said the workshop is particularly timely given recent comments by Cape York Justice Study author, Tony Fitzgerald, who described the “absence of economic security and well being” in many North Queensland Indigenous communities.

“Clearly Indigenous people have at best a marginal position in the regional economy and ATSIC welcomes any initiative that will improve the economic circumstances of our people.

“And that must be a prerequisite to the sort of development our communities are so desperate for. FNQ Employment, Coles Indigenous Food Fund and Robins Australian Foods need to be congratulated for their entrepreneurialism and ATSIC looks forward to playing an ongoing role in this process.

“There are, however, some real concerns about the proposed relationship between these entrepreneurs and the Aboriginal communities. Our aspirations are not to become seed or fruit collectors for whitefellas but to be real partners with the economic, employment and training outcomes that real partnership entails.

“Obviously the real value in an industry like this comes from value-adding; from processing, marketing and retailing of these products. That’s where we aspire to be.

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“There are also issues of native title and intellectual property rights that need to addressed - Aboriginal customary law vests the ownership of flora and fauna and knowledge about their uses in particular individuals and clan groups.

“This is obviously different to European legal concepts and consultations to ascertain what belongs to whom would be an essential first step, said O’Shane.

FNQ Employment executive officer, Tom Vieira, said his organisation saw a bush - food industry as providing Indigenous landholders with an opportunity to utilise their land in an economic sense whilst still maintaining their unique cultural and spiritual identity.

“Bush Tucker could provide indigenous landholders with what is potentially a sustainable economic option for them to live off their land.

“We’ve held two ‘whole of Government’ meetings now to ascertain the strength of financial commitment that could be gleaned from Government to assist Indigenous people, and the outlook is positive,” he said.

Bush Tucker Opportunities 9.00 - 12.30 am Tuesday April 23 Rydges Plaza Grafton St Cairns

Media are invited to attend the whole event but should note that interviews will be arranged from 11.30 am.

Television Editors please note: File footage of members of the Mamu Aboriginal Corporation at work in their bush tucker garden will be available on SP Beta format .

For Further Information:

Alastair Harris ATSIC 0409 658 177 Evelyne Lewiston FNQ Employment 0740 517 836


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