Defining Indigenous ag

Ropeley business owners Tracey and Doug Goebel from Native Oz Bushfoods. Picture: JACOB HAYDEN

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) is hosting a series of roundtables across April and May to seek input on Indigenous agricultural products.

The roundtables invite stakeholders like Ropeley business Native Oz Bushfoods to confirm support for the broad characteristics and principles that must be used in defining these products.

Native Oz Bushfoods co-owner Tracey Goebel attended a roundtable discussion on Wednesday 17 April.

“It was quite interesting to see where people were coming in to this Indigenous framework, and what it means for people,” Mrs Goebel said.

“As an Aboriginal-owned business, we think the Indigenous Agricultural Product Framework (IAPF) should be centred around native foods from our ancestors.

“Yes, there’s Indigenous people out there growing cattle or sheep, or melons or pumpkins, but I think this framework really needs to focus on the native foods, because that’s where the protection is needed right now.”

The roundtables are the next phase in consultation in the IAPF project, being led by the NFF and jointly funded by the Australia Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) and the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation (ILSC).

Initial consultations with a range of key stakeholders has identified five characteristics as being critical to the definition of an Indigenous Agricultural Product: Connection to Culture, Connection to Country, Sustainability, Collective Benefit, and Economic Self-determination.

NFF President David Jochinke said it was essential the widest range of voices were heard at this stage to ensure the project’s objectives are achieved.

“The first and most important step is to reach agreement among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander producers about what characteristics must define an Indigenous agricultural product,” Mr Jochinke said.

Mrs Goebel’s business deals in native foods including condiments and drinks, but also offers education, training and consultation around native foods.

“We need to save the industry so it’s not another macadamia nut or another finger lime industry where Australia isn’t even the biggest grower for it, it’s all done internationally,” she said.

“That’s a really important part that needs to be looked at.”

Mrs Goebel said she hoped part of the IAPF would cover blockchain ledgering.

“Myself and four other businesses started an Indigenous co-op, Bushtukka and Botanicals Indigenous Enterprise Co-operative Limited, and we’re working on the first blockchain ledger around native foods so that we can actually show the providence of where that food’s coming from,” she said.

“As a small Indigenous business we always get the saying ‘that person is cheaper than you’, but we’re making an authentic Indigenous product made out of all-native fruit… we’re not filling it with apples and pears and things like that.

“The providence and the blockchain would show the consumer, the buyer, where the process of that food has come from and if it is supporting Indigenous community and business like it says.

“Or, is it just an Indigenous artwork sitting on a label and not benefitting any Indigenous people at all?”

Mrs Goebel said the IAPF would be a ‘game-changer’ for the native food industry.

“We need all people, all key-stakeholders at this table to back this and move it forward, because it’s getting out of control,” she said.

“People overseas are wanting our seeds, and there’s people in Australia that don’t really care about what happens to Indigenous plants and medicinal plants, and they’re sending seeds left, right and centre out of Australia right now.

“We have to protect that for the culture of our people.”