Aboriginal botanist Warren Whitfield teaches students from Atlanta (US) Emory University about Aboriginal fire-stick management practices and how this affected vegetation. The trees in the background are: Melaleuca leucadendra The Weeping Tea Tree, Paper Bark Tree. Why do these trees have hard flammable leaves and what did Aboriginal people use this plant for?
In recent years there has been growing interest in Australia in traditional Aboriginal life, in the way they managed the country, in the life they led and the foods they ate. When the Europeans first arrived, they too, supplemented the European style diet with local foods. As the country became more urbanised this interest died, in part because of greater availability of other foods, in part because Australian food and animals had not been (apparently) cultivated, domesticated and were less readily available to a growing population.
I say apparently because the Aborigines had developed quite sophisticated ways of managing the country. Here I was fascinated to discover when reviewing the anthropological literature for my history honours work all those years ago (I was part of what was I think Australia's first Australian pre-history class in 1966 at the University of New England) that the Aborigines had actually worked significantly less hours than Europeans had too.
So I plan to look at bush tucker as part of my Regional Australia food series. As a first step for those who are interested, you might like to start here, a Queensland school site on bush tucker.