Forget meat and three veg, new grub for elderly will be good tucker

Feb 13 2006

WITCHETTY grubs on the menu? Yams? Wild peach? Roasted goanna, perhaps? All delivered to your nanna's doorstep.

That has been the dream of the Meals on Wheels chief executive officer, Les MacDonald. After four years of negotiation with government agencies, academia and Aboriginal organisations, the dream is to become a reality.

Bush tucker, initially for elderly Aborigines, many of whom have asked for the food they consumed in their youth, will soon go into production at Menindee in the state's far west.

The bush tucker enterprise will focus on fruit and vegetables first, such as bush tomato, quandong, acacia, citrus, desert lime, sandalwood and lemon myrtle.

Hunting animals is further down the track. Traditional Aboriginal hunting skills may be used, but "regulatory issues" will have to be settled, said Steve England, an architect of the project.

Mr MacDonald, who has headed Meals on Wheels for four years, and before that Uniting Church Aged Care for nearly 12 years, was inspired by Aboriginal aged care services in Menindee.

He was also inspired by Beryl Carmichael, 71, an elder of the Ngiyaampaa people. She was born on a Methodist Church mission station at Menindee, which is the site of the 10-hectare bush tucker garden.

For years, Aunty Beryl, as she is known, has been taking Aborigines and people from other cultures into the bush to teach them the old ways, how to survive and how to relate to the bush.

Mr MacDonald also knew diabetes was a serious problem among Aborigines, and that it was diet-related ("too much eating of Western crap").

The rate of type two diabetes in Aborigines is two to four times higher than the rate for non-indigenous Australians.

Bush tucker, which has virtually no fat, little salt and plenty of antioxidants, has been demonstrated to reduce susceptibility to diabetes and to improve the condition of those who have the disease.

"Beryl talked about her 'brothers' in the Aboriginal community who had been taken out of Broken Hill Base Hospital and put onto bush tucker and within a week the type two diabetes had disappeared," Mr MacDonald said.

Once bush tucker production began, the service could spread to other Aboriginal groups and the general population, he said.


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