This project investigates the environmental,
economic, social and cultural sustainability of bush
food harvesting and micro-enterprise in Central Australia.
Its goal is to contribute to better income, employment and livelihoods for Aboriginal
harvesters as part of the commercial food industry.
Aboriginal harvesters
in central Australia are
primary producers. Their
knowledge and practice
underpin the use and supply
of foods. Products
based on wildon supermarket shelves and
restaurant menus across
Australia. Demand for these
products is growing, and
the industry based on them
is expanding.
Desert raisins (akatyerr,
yakajirri, kampurarpa
[Solanum centrale]) and
acacia seeds (e.g. ntyerrm,
kalkarti [Acacia coriacia,
A. victoriae]) are two of
the major foods, and
supply comes mostly from
central Australia. These are
harvested from the when they are in season.
Up to 500 Aboriginal
harvesters collect them for
family use or to sell to the
four wholesalers trading
in bushfoods in central
Desert Knowledge CRC
PO Box 3971, Alice Springs, NT 0871
Publications Officer
Ph: +617 3214 2545
For more information, including a
complete list of our partners:
Desert people and foods:
Sustainability of small-scale commercial bush food harvest
Expected outcomes and outputs
• Increase employment of Aboriginal people in bush
produce industry research, development and enterprise
• Greater recognition of the roles and values of desert
Aboriginal people in the bush foods industry
• Improve understanding of the bush produce industry
• Build Aboriginal capacity to engage with the industry
• Contribute to community development, cultural and
natural resource management and industry development.
• Booklets, reports, maps, brochures, and other media for
diverse audiences.
Research questions
Why, how and where is
bush harvest happening?
Who is involved? How are
plants and land managed?
What do harvesters find
important about the use
and sale of bush products?
How can opportunities
for Aboriginal harvesters’
involvement in the
industry be improved?
How sustainable is harvest?
Mavis Ladd (Peterson), Judy Riley, Vicky
Ladd and Jennifer Camphoo of Epenarra
with drums of ntyerrm (A. coriacea) to sell.
Why research it?
TheAustralian foods industry is dominated by non-Aboriginal growers, processors,
business people, researchers and others who contribute to the economic value chain.
Many of them operate outside desert regions. Equitable, fair and sustainable livelihoods
for Aboriginal people and enterprises depend on balancing different values: cultural and
social cf. dollars; wild harvest cf. horticulture; local cf. national economies. People in
the industry want research to better understand production processes, values and land
management systems that improve opportunities for Aboriginal and other desert people.
Research links
This activity is part of the Desert Knowledge CRC’s integrated subprojects aligned to various points along the economic value chain (see
diagram below). In 2005/06 this project looked at the roles and perspectives of bush food
wholesalers in central Australia. It also set the groundwork for strong engagement with
Aboriginal harvesters for the period 2006–09.
Janie Long of Ti Tree with ripe
akatyerr (S. centrale) fruit.
Photo by G. O’Loughlin
Photo by F
Bush Produce Economic Value Chain with elements relevant to this research highlighted
“Knowledge about bush foods comes
from Aboriginal people. It belongs to
Arrernte, Anmatyerr and other groups
who collect the plants. The knowledge
belongs to that whole community of
Aboriginal people.”
Merne Altyerre-ipenhe (Food from the Creation Time) Reference Group
Central Land Council
Aboriginal owners &
managers of land & species
Horticultural suppliers
Local joint governance
Industry information, advocacy etc
(e.g. ANFI Steering group, IAF)
product and $$ flow
$ and other returns
Fact sheet: 50
Project: 2.706
Last updated: March 2007
Research Team
Fiona Walsh, CSIRO (Ethnoecologist, Bush Harvest project leader)
Ph: 08 89 507 100
Josie Douglas, Charles Darwin University (Indigenous Research Fellow)
Ph: 08 8959 5270
Reference group, project partners and affiliates
• Aboriginal harvesters
• Central Land Council Land Management section
• Outback Bushfoods
• Horner wholesaler
• Wirmbrandt Pty Ltd
• Yuendumu Mining
Currently there are no representative producer or wholesaler
groups or substantial government and non-government
involvement in the central Australian bush food industry.
How is research done?
The research team
follows strong ethical
protocols which guide
its collaboration with
Aboriginal participants and
organisations. It is advised
by an Aboriginal reference
group and actively engages
with central Australian
wholesalers and harvesters.
It combines participatory
and scientific research
Gladys Beasley, Topsy Beasley and Jessie Peterson of Epenarra clean ntyerrm
(Acacia coriacea seed).
Peter Yates weighs seed sold by Nelson Casson.
Janie Long and other Anmatyerr women go with Josie Douglas to search for akatyerr fruit (S. centrale).
Ripe seeds of kalkarti
(A. elacantha)
Photo by F
Photo by M. Jones
Photo by G. O’Loughlin
Photo by P
Reference Group: Top row, L–R: Lorna Wilson (Pitjantjatjara),
Myra Ah Chee (Southern Arrernte/Luritja), Maree Meredith
(Central Land Council representative), Bess Price (Warlpiri)
Bottom Row, L–R: Rayleen Brown (Eastern Arrernte), Veronica Dobson
(Eastern Arrernte), MK Turner (Eastern Arrernte).