How to celebrate and support First Nations food culture

Myffy Rigby
Pride of place: Keen to support First Nations businesses such as jewellery artist Kristy Dickinson from Haus of Dizzy? ...
Pride of place: Keen to support First Nations businesses such as jewellery artist Kristy Dickinson from Haus of Dizzy? Here's how. Photo: Simon Schluter

In response to the many readers who have written in requesting a list of businesses run by First Nations People they can support, we have compiled a collection of restaurants, food trucks, markets, e-commerce, talks, walks, initiatives and more to help amplify the voices of First Nations Peoples. Support, learn and grow by buying local. 

AFR. Life and Leisure. December 2017. Sobah Beer.for story about non-alcoholic drinks by Max Allen. .

Non-alcoholic small-batch beers from Sobah. Photo: Demetre Minchev

Businesses to buy from

Most of these businesses deliver around the country. Responsibly grown seasonal ingredients are a click away.

Blak Markets
Visit Sydney's Bare Island on August 16 to listen to the stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and makers and buy their work. You'll be purchasing directly from the artists, so profits go straight back to community. facebook.com/blakmarkets 

Indigiearth
Founded by Sharon Winsor, a Ngemba Weilwan woman, this Mudgee company specialises in native Australian foods, teas, spices, oils and soaps. All products are sourced from First Nations communities who practise traditional land management. indigiearth.com.au

Native Oz Bushfoods 
Doug Goebel, a Bundjalung man, is behind this online store, specialising in native Australian ingredients, propagated by him and his wife Tracey. Find the likes of fresh and dried mountain pepper, saltbush, Kakadu plum jams and syrups, and a wide range of spice mixes. nativeozbushfoods.com.au

Sobah
A non-alcoholic brewery making seasonal small-batch beers, founded by psychologist and Gamilaraay man Clinton Schultz. The beer, "aimed to break the stigma of socialising sober", is available across Sydney and Melbourne venues, with a full list published on their website. sobah.com.au

Supply Nation 
A thorough database of verified First Nations businesses covering everything from hospitality to architecture across the nation. ibd.supplynation.org.au

The Unexpected Guest
Jenny Khan, a Ngiyampaa Wailwan woman from central-west NSW is behind this breakfast foods company, making granola and muesli bars. All the ingredients are certified organic and locally sourced. theunexpectedguest.com

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Wagyu2yourdoor
A Gamilaraay/Githabul man, Gary Green's wagyu beef was once only found on fine-dining menus (Matt Moran and Neil Perry are both fans of his highly marbled work), but is now available for consumers to purchase online from wagyu2yourdoor.com.au.  

Kamilaroi man Corey Grech, selling kangaroo pies with his food truck Meat Brothers, outside Sydney Cricket Ground. 1st March 2019 Photo by Louise Kennerley SMH

Gamilaraay man Corey Grech selling kangaroo pies outside Sydney Cricket Ground. Photo: Louise Kennerley

Food trucks to frequent

There's no better time to get out and about and support food trucks, while restaurant restrictions are still in place.

Meat Brothers 
Sydney food truck owner and Gamilaraay man Corey Grech is on a mission to make kangaroo pies more popular than beef. But if eating a roo isn't really for you, he also offers lemon myrtle chicken. Follow @meat_bra on Instagram to find out where they'll be parking next. 

Mirritya Mundya 
Dwayne and Amelia Bannon-Harrison's catering company (the name means "Hungry Blackfish" in the Ngarrugu language group of south-eastern Australia) takes many forms – a food truck, pop-up dinners, deliveries and catering packs. But at the moment, you'll find them serving snacks out of their truck every Wednesday to Saturday at Callala Bay on the NSW south coast. Follow them at @mmundya on Instagram for exact locations.
 
Street Feast Melbourne
Owner-operator Dale Monero, a Ngarigo man, originally hails from Orbost in East Gippsland. His food truck specialises in low and slow barbecue. Find everything from pulled pork, loaded potatoes and mac'n'cheese to custom native Australian menus for events. streetfeastmelbourne.com.au

sunmar15dumu Dumu Balcony Cafe Bright Victoria ; text by Elspeth Callender ; SUPPLIED via journalist ; Coffee served with love at Dumu Balcony Cafe

Dumu Balcony Cafe focuses on fresh, healthy fare sourced locally. Photo: Mieke Boynton

Restaurants to eat in

First Nations owned-and-run restaurants serving up native Australian ingredients. 

Cooee Cafe  
Sharon Brindley is a Yamatji/Noongar woman who grew up on the Mornington Peninsula but spent much of her childhood in Kalgoorlie with her grandmother, who taught her to live off the land. Her menu is a reflection of that time and her aim is to teach her customers about native Australian ingredients so they can incorporate them into their own cooking. Shop 1, 7 Thamer Street, Capel Sound, Victoria, 0415 458 420, cooeecafeandcatering.com.au

Dumu Balcony Cafe  
A cafe and social enterprise that trains First Nations youth in hospitality, the menu is focused on fresh, healthy fare sourced locally. There's a balcony in summer and an open fire to toast your toes by in winter. 4 Ireland Street, Bright, Victoria, 03 5755 1489

Kawul  
Co-owners Kassidy and Scott Waters are Wanaruah people and it's here that you'll find a menu dotted with native Australian produce such as Dutch cream potato gnocchi with warrigal greens; saltbush polenta chips, and Daintree barramundi with lemon myrtle executed by ex-Muse chef Jayden Casinelli. 16 Pokolbin Mountains Road, Pokolbin, NSW, 02 4998 7333, kawul.com.au

Lillipad Cafe
Nyoka Hrabinsky, a Yidinji woman from the FNQ community of Yarrabah, runs this Glebe cafe with her husband Laszio. Their vision is to create a safe place for everyone "from the Indigenous community to the LGBTQIA community, from vegans to carnivores and all in between".  The pair work with local elders to incorporate local flavours into their cafe menu. 34 Glebe Point Road, Glebe, NSW, 0423 289 779, lillipadcafesydney.com

Mabu Mabu 
Nornie Bero's bright cafe and tuckshop now opens in the evenings for pick-up and takeaway meals. It's here you'll find the flavours of Torres Strait mixed with Melbourne flair. Mabu Mabu, a term from the Torres Strait, translates as "help yourself". 13 Anderson Street, Yarraville, Victoria, 0438 860 013, mabumabu.com.au

Britain's Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, sample native food at the Charcoal Lane Mission Australia social enterprise restaurant in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, October 18, 2018. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are on a 3-week tour of Australia, New Zealand, Tonga, and Fiji and are in country to launch the 2018 Invictus Games, an Olympic-style event for disabled and ill service people. (AAP Image/AFP Pool, Andy Brownbill) NO ARCHIVING

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex at Charcoal Lane in Melbourne. Photo: Andy Brownbill

Hospitality initiatives to support

All of these initiatives not only take donations but welcome new, young First Nations applicants interested in following a hospitality career.

Charcoal Lane 
A social enterprise from Mission Australia providing hospitality training to young First Nations people in a kitchen run by chef Greg Hampton. The menu is bush tucker-driven and since the Duke and Duchess of Sussex paid a visit in 2018, it's been near-impossible to get a reservation. Support them by donating, or simply booking a table and eating. 136 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy Victoria, 03 9418 3400, charcoallane.com.au

The National Indigenous Culinary Institute 
Funded through government grants and reliant on philanthropic donations, this program seeks to place young First Nations workers in hospitality jobs, mentored by some of Australia's top chefs. Restaurants involved in the program include Rockpool Bar and Grill, Bistro Guillaume, Catalina, Aria, The European and MoVida. Readers, young chefs and restaurateurs can get involved via the website, nici.org.au

National Centre for Indigenous Excellence
A not-for-profit organisation, NCIE is an essential part of the Redfern community and offers accommodation, exercise facilities and training programs including Job Ready, founded by elder and food personality Aunty Beryl Van-Oploo. Through this program many graduates have gone on to work in NCIE Hospitality, which includes a First Nations-inspired catering service, conference and accommodation centre. Support the project by using their catering company or making a tax-deductible donation. 180 George Street, Redfern, NSW, 02 9046 7800, ncie.org.au

Yerrabingin House The world’s first indigenous rooftop farm, Alexandria based Yerrabingin House contains over 2000 edible, medicinal or cultural plants.

Yerrabingin House is the world's first First Nations rooftop farm. Photo: Supplied

Talks and walks to taste and learn  

Listen and learn from First Nations experts about their relationship with the land.

Koorie Heritage Trust's Cultural Walk  
Normally you'd be able to take a walking and tasting tour with this 30-year-old not-for-profit to discover the culture and ingredients of Victoria. But for the time being they are running virtual education programs if you'd like to do some reading and viewing before you do some tasting. koorieheritagetrust.com.au 

Royal Botanic Garden Sydney Aboriginal Heritage Tour 
Book in for a guided tour and learn about the way the Cadigal people use the foods planted in the garden. Depending on what's in season, you'll also have the opportunity to taste some of those bushfoods. Tours depart from the information centre at the garden shop every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 10am, but check the website for updates. rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au

Wurundjeri Cultural tours
Explore the beautiful Dandenongs and gain a better understanding of the relationship between the Wurundjeri people and the land we all stand on. On their tours (they will resume operation once Australia is free of COVID-19), you'll walk, taste, listen and learn about the traditional lifestyle of the Melbourne area's original owners. wurundjericulturaltours.com.au 

Yerrabingin House 
The world's first First Nations rooftop farm, Eveleigh-based Yerrabingin contains more than 2000 edible, medicinal or cultural plants. When business is back to usual, there are regular workshops and tours focused on culture, native permaculture and sustainability. For now, you can book a virtual tour to see what they're all about. yerrabingin.com.au 

Any First Nations food businesses or stories we have missed? Please contact us on editorial@goodfood.com.au

In their words

Nornie Bero 

Nornie Bero, a Komet woman from Murray Island in Torres Strait, is the chef and owner of cafe and catering business Mabu Mabu in Yarraville, Melbourne. She's been cooking for as long as she can remember. 

I come from an island where our people have always known that they own their own land, and I was raised to be very culturally aware. I grew up with a spear in my hand, big banana dresses and island dancing. I guess it's been easy for me to be who I am in my business because I know where I come from, and I know my background. I was lucky to be raised in that community. I get to showcase my culture [at Mabu Mabu] and make people aware of that and that's an amazing thing for me, because I am an Indigenous Torres Strait Islander – that's not something you see a lot of.

I believe that we're making social change through food. Until I opened my own place, I hadn't worked with one other Indigenous person the entire time I've been in the industry. I just don't think we move our own people into that field because we don't teach them enough to have those mainstream jobs. I see it in my own community. I think we just need to advertise that more, make them aware they can have careers, especially in cheffing. Make them aware that you can have a career in hospitality, a long and vibrant career, and you can go around the world with it. I don't think we push enough.

I guess my whole cooking story started with my dad. I grew up in food. Dad was a bit of a make-things-out-of-nothing kind of guy. At one stage he changed our house into a tuckshop on the island and made fresh buns and pumpkin dampers for locals and we used to deliver them before school.

I came down to Melbourne because I wanted to be a chef. I fell in love with hospitality, and I'm a feeder. I think it was just the right fit for me.

When I was young, I wanted to become something. You live on communities and you never think you're going to get out sometimes. It's not about getting out, it's about achieving something. I love my culture but it's also like, well, what am I going to do with myself? And I knew that hospitality would be something that could take me anywhere in the world to work as well.

My dad got sick in his early 30s and I wanted to make sure that he lived vicariously through me, so I did stuff that he might have wanted to do. I guess I always dreamed big because he did. If he had seen [Mabu Mabu], I'm pretty sure he'd just be sitting there with a cup of tea, eating damper with some golden syrup and butter on it, happy as Larry having a little singalong in the corner. He would be very proud of what we've achieved and I think he would be thinking, "You can do more."

Aunty Beryl Van-Oploo 

Aunty Beryl Van-Oploo is a proud Gamilaroi woman from Walgett, NSW. She is the founder of the Job Ready program at National Centre for Indigenous Excellence.

If you have an education, you have a voice, you have a choice. When I was a young woman, if you went for a job, the only job you got was cleaning. Now I have a choice.

Working at NCIE allows me to open up other doors for our mob. It's been a wonderful journey for me and the students I've trained. We've taken on our first Aboriginal apprentice chef who graduated through the Job Ready program [the program provides training and employment pathways for the local community, which is just fantastic. I have students come and go and all over the shop but they all keep in contact with me. If they need support, the whole team at NCIE are there to support them. We're like a family – everybody helps one another and that's what it's all about.

When I first came down to Redfern from Walgett, my cousins were all working in the eastern suburbs. They call them nannies now but back then they were called housekeepers. We didn't have many rights at that time, that's the sort of jobs we got. I went into the kitchen. My elders always taught me to appreciate food and how to cook a simple meal and that stayed with me, and that's when I got a passion for it. 

My first job as a cook was as a nanny in Bellevue Hill. I had to cook meals for them, so I had to learn to cook properly. I improved on what my own family taught me, so I just adjusted that, and I had a great passion for it. And my passion then became food, health and wellbeing. I ended up going to TAFE myself and getting an education when I was 31 and I'm still developing recipes now. 

It's been a big journey. When I'm teaching young cooks, I always talk about health and wellbeing because of our health situation. The statistics say we've got very poor health, and I have seen that up close. We were raised to keep the connection to family. That's the way it is, and that's the way we were raised. We were raised to respect one another and share and love one another. I think Aboriginal people from all over Australia are like that. We may not speak their language and we may not live out in the bush but I can tell you, I've travelled Australia many times and been to every state and they'll always say hello.

I took a group of students to [the Slow Food event] Terra Madre in Italy. We were able to stop over in Rome to attend Mary McKillop's canonisation and there's over 100,000 people in the Vatican and somebody's calling out "Aunt! Aunt!" and it was Aunty Elsie from the La Perouse mob singing out to me.        

Nathan Lovett

Nathan Lovett, former teacher and CEO of the National Indigenous Culinary Institute, is a proud Yuin man who has worked with Aboriginal youth since his 20s.

Education can change lives, particularly for young Indigenous people who need help. Education can provide that pathway. I had a very lucky upbringing compared to other people who are Aboriginal. I always wanted to make sure I used my advantage to the advantage of Aboriginal people. I've got an education, I've been to university, I live a clean life and I want to make sure that I can provide that same pathway to others that can improve and enhance their opportunities. And hopefully change some aspects in their own communities. 

Finding out about my heritage is an interesting aspect [of the journey]. We always knew, but it was taboo to talk about it. We weren't brought up closely associated with our Aboriginal family. My grandmother is one of 14 children and they weren't brought up knowing they were Aboriginal as part of the fear of being taken away with the White Australia Policy. They were told sometimes they had to go out and hide in the field and if they were found they had to say they were Indian. It's trauma. No different to somebody who's been in war and come back and won't talk about the atrocities they've seen.

One of the biggest difficulties for me early on was feeling that sense of connection. Even within myself, it was a bit of an awakening. I've always felt a connection to the bush. Now I understand what that connection is. It's a connection to country. But it was really difficult to feel connected with some people because I don't look Aboriginal. I didn't know a lot about my culture either, so it was hard to feel like I was accepted. And even now, I still feel like an outsider looking in after 20 years of identifying and being accepted by the community. It's a difficult process to be a part of. The perception of being Aboriginal is that you've been through difficult times, purely from being Aboriginal. So it's been a better part of 20 years of learning about my own culture and connecting strongly with it but also providing what means I have to provide a better opportunity for other young Aboriginal people.

We're really keen to meet with new chefs anywhere across Australia. As we move forwards, my goal is to grow us a national base. We will have a program in Adelaide. We will have a program in Brisbane. We should be in Canberra. I would love to have a program in Darwin – the atmosphere up there is just amazing. For young people to be involved in NICI, we want to hear from teachers and careers advisors and anyone that is working with young Aboriginal people. We'll try and support everyone we can. If there's a cluster of people who want to be involved in the program in a more remote area, I'll try and bring that program there.

Good Food recognises and acknowledges the traditional owners of the land we now call Australia, the dispossession they were subjected to, and the disadvantage that ensued, which is still being felt by Aboriginal people today. Perhaps through the common language of food we can in some small way come closer together and embrace a more truthful, more just, shared future.

About the main photo

Kristy Dickinson, AKA Haus of Dizzy, is a jewellery artist who specialises in moulded plastics. A proud Wiradjuri woman, much of her work focuses on wearable heritage and Aboriginal pride. You can find her at her Melbourne studio but she also ships around Australia, and you can check out new collections as they drop on her Instagram, @hausofdizzy. Suite 1, 64 Johnston Street, Collingwood, Victoria, hausofdizzy.com