First Nations grower group planting native youlks

While there's an abundance of native root vegetables which sustained the First Nations peoples across the continent for many millenium, more than two centuries after the British Invasion, few have been domesticated marketed to the mainstream until 21st century.

A variety of the 'youlk' vegetable looks similar to a kipfler potato and grows in poor sandy soil, which is unsuitable for grain growing or grazing.
(ABC: Sean Murphy - cropped image)

ABC Rural WA 3 January 2017

A group has been set up Western Australia in the hope to maximise the potential for industry investment and international supply opportunities for First Nations people.

Another example of the Youlks Native vegetables


ABC Report on Aboriginal groups in southern Western Australia groing Youlks on very sandy soil and other lands that were previously considered unsuitable for agriculture by mainstream Australian farmer


Aboriginal reseacher and writer Bruce Pascoe goes on a mainstream television 'today show' to demonstrate the use and advantages of using a Native flour. This is a demonstration of the first time since colonisation that this flour has been made into bread or cakes


Enlarge Image

Jack Pascoe, son of Bruce Pascoe walks through a crop of Kangaroo grass near Mallacoota, North Eastern Victoria. This crop of native grass is being harvested for the first time in over 150 years. Kangaroo grass was one of the many domesticated and staple foods for Aboriginal people.
Bruce Pascoe, his family and other volunteer Aboriginal groups are leading the way for the important recovery of traditional Aboriginal native plant foods. Bruce told me this will be an important future for Aboriginal kids '

(Image and text by Raquel Mari)

Bruce Pascoe, History researcher, writer and educator, talks about the history of First Nations Agriculture on the continent now known as Australia.

The organiser of the government department that set up the group project Kelvin Flugge said the group was expected to run like other mainstream grower groups.

But, he said it was important to have a customised group for Aboriginal farmers as many Indigenous-owned farming properties had different management logistics to other modern-day farms.

"Consider the fact that some of these management groups are not like your typical Mum and Dad [run] wheat and sheep farms where they've probably got bigger over time to allow more family members to stay on the farm and work the farm," he said.

"We've got, in some cases, 20 members and in some cases 120 members so it creates a whole different dynamic for us and a whole different set of challenges," he said.

According to Mr Flugge, the establishment of the NLE has been underway for more than a decade, but has now officially held its first two meetings.

As a part of the initial set-up of the group, governments role is to source initial funding and create a strategic plan, which will be completed by June next year.

It will include farmers in Noongar country in the south-west of WA, which generally coverers people located from Moore River to Esperance.

Indigenous-run farm properties increasing

Mr Flugge said the group had been formed at a time when Indigenous owned properties were increasing.

"What we've seen lately, in the last 20 years or so, is a marked increase in the number of purchasers, money through the Indigenous Land Corporation, who have been working with Aboriginal community groups to acquire land on their behalf," he said.

"But what we've found is you combine the recent purchases with the existing estates, and the impending 'Native Title' discussions and settlements and there will be a number of potential Aboriginal Lands Trust properties.

"They will ultimately need to be supported to achieve some financial stability."

Mr Flugge said so far the peak group included about eight landholder groups, covering up to 24 properties.

He said many of these covered mainstream farming operations of wheat and sheep, but they were also looking at incorporating native bush foods into the operation.

"It's really important that we do maintain [the mainstream farming] so that we contribute to the department's own role in supporting the WA food sector and doubling the value of agriculture by 2025, but we want to capitalise on opportunities where there are global food demands as well," he said.

"While the mainstream farming concepts still stay with us we are looking at utilising the whole land asset.

"Honey is a classic one for us; it's really important we look at bush, bees, honey — it's a natural fit for us.

"And so is the deep sand where we look at a native tuber, we call it the bush potato or youlk."

He said they would be teaming up with other grower groups in the region to attract industry investment.

Noongar Land Enterprise group
Aboriginal Business Development team with members of the Aboriginal producer group in WA, the Noongar Land Enterprise group
(WA department of Agriculture and food)