Seven people standing outside with a bush tucker café sign

All welcome at the pop-up Bush Tucker Café: pictured from left are Pru Hampton (Werin AMS Executive Assistant), Michael Rohr (MNCLHD Nurse Unit Manager), Nardja Carter (Black Apple Dreaming), Laurie Clay (MNCLHD Aboriginal Health Practitioner), Whitney Smith (Werin Programs manager), Tania Langler (MNCLHD Senior Manager) and Jill Wong (MNCLHD Director).

Connecting over delicious, nutritious bush tucker

Mar 05, 2024

Kangaroo salad, roo rissoles seasoned with Dorrigo pepper, red spot whiting with lemon myrtle, jams of lilli pilli, Davidson plum and wild lime with damper, and a variety of bush teas were on the menu at Port Macquarie Community Health.

On Wednesday 28 February, Mid North Coast Local Health District staff, Werin Aboriginal Medical Service staff, and community members gathered at the pop-up Bush Tucker Café to taste bush foods and understand more about their place in a healthy diet.

Director of Integrated Care, Allied Health and Community Services, Jill Wong, said the events provide the opportunity for healthcare workers and community members to connect to country in a significant way.

“We are fortunate to be able to have local experts here to share their knowledge of bush foods with us and our partners in the community,” Ms Wong said.

“Our health service exists on Birpai, Dunghutti, Gambaynggirr and Nganyaywana Lands and today we can taste foods from country. This experience enhances our knowledge and connection to the land.

“Connection and these healthy foods can help our staff and patients as part of the holistic management of chronic disease.”

Laurie Clay has a wealth of knowledge and experience as an Aboriginal Health Practitioner. Mr Clay collaborated with MNCLHD Aboriginal Health and Primary Partnerships team, Werin Aboriginal Medical Service and Black Apple Dreaming to bring the Bush Tucker Café concept to life.

“I’ve worked in chronic disease management for several years. Australian bush tucker has many health benefits and can be grown and harvested from our backyards, but we don’t know them as well as we do, say the Mediterranean diet,” Mr Clay said.

“Food not only contributes to our nutrition but also our mental wellbeing because it’s such a comfort. Going down to the beach and getting some pipis and seafood, growing and harvesting bush foods from the garden is part of that wellbeing cycle too.

“Lilli Pilli is high in vitamin C, kangaroo is lean and high in iron. These events are about expanding our knowledge of bush foods and carrying that knowledge forward to our patients who would like to incorporate that into their diet.”

Nadja Carter from Black Apple Dreaming, a Birpai business, prepared the menu and shared her knowledge of the key ingredients.

“Bush tucker is still a niche market and spreading the word about the taste and benefits will hopefully help people seek out these foods,” Ms Carter said.

“It’s great to see people try the food and watch the lightbulb go off in their head as they know exactly the recipe to incorporate the flavour into their diet.

“Bush foods taste great, are good for us and the farming practices are good for the environment – the plants need less fertilizer and less water to grow. I encourage people to grow bush foods in their veggie garden; you don’t need a special garden.”

The pop-up café was the first of three events held in Port Macquarie and Kempsey thanks to a Close the Gap funding grant.

The Werin Aboriginal Medical Service event will be held on 21 March, Close the Gap Day, and Kempsey District Hospital later in May during Reconciliation Week.

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