Leila Nimbadja has been leading the development of our bush foods enterprise through a deep ecological and cultural knowledge of the region and its bush foods.
I’ve worked here now for 30 years, and people in the town say ‘that’s Leila, she’s smart, she knows her bush foods.’ It’s important for people to know their knowledge, to think back to what their parents and their grandparents showed them.
When we harvest, we know that it’s all connected, when we see something flowering, it means the fish are ready, when the spear grass is coming up, we know the stingray are coming; we know because our parents, they taught us.
I remember when I was young one day when we were out bush hunting and our parents gave us those Kakadu Plums. They saw how much it gave us energy and we were laughing and playing. Later that night they brought us more, and we lay there learning about the milky way and eating those Kakadu Plums.
They taught me about the green ants too. When you make them into a tea, or inhale the vapour, or even when they bite you it puts the medicine in your skin and makes you feel better; I was using that one for a long time. It’s bush food too, we used to just pick them off the tree and eat them. It can make you happy, healthy and better.
My mum showed me how to dig and cook bush food, and when I used to go hunting with my brother at around 14 years old, we used to eat these. Now I show my own grandson how to gather bush food.
We know how the land works as well: where to find different foods, when to do burning so that they grow back fresh and healthy. We want to have lots of bush food because it’s good for us, and it makes us healthy. It’s important to us to look after the land so that it can look after us.
Nathaniel Mawalinga Wilson
When we were little, we used to see all the bush foods and call their names in language. We can’t run for these ones – not allowed to run and rush. You can’t run when you see all them bush tucker. Our old people taught us not to rush. Just gotta walk. Don’t grab it. Gently, not rough. You gotta show respect. It’s how my old people taught me.
Maningrida community harvesters and nursery workers
Our social enterprise has also involved over 150 harvesters from Maningrida and surrounding homelands, bringing their bush foods to the collection hub. The CDP participants at the Bawinanga nursery also play a key role in assisting with the collection and are making our products in Maningrida using bush ingredients.
Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation also employs non-indigenous staff members who have been supporting the development of the enterprise.