• Mitchell grass being harvested by hand. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
A new study conducted on Gamilaraay Country has found native millet is the most economically viable native grain to grow in the western NSW region.
Keira Jenkins

10 Nov 2020 - 4:22 PM  UPDATED 10 Nov 2020 - 4:22 PM

The findings of a new study into native grains on Gamilaraay Country has given hope of a resurgence of native-based foods used in 'paddock to plate' production.

Conducted by the University of Sydney near Moree and Narrabri, the research found native millet is the most economically viable native grain to grow in the region.

Research leader Dr Angela Pattison told NITV News she hoped the year-long project was the beginning of seeing much more native foods on supermarket shelves and in restaurants.

"They taste really good and they're really healthy," she said.

"The more people that can get access to them the better. 

"One of the questions that was asked really early on in this project and that determined where we ended up going was that we actually needed to try connecting the growers - people on Country - all the way through to the people that will buy it in the supermarkets.

"That meant going along all the steps in the middle and working out what works, what doesn't and what do we need to work on more in the future."

The project worked in collaboration with Gamilaraay Elders and with Black Duck Foods, owned by author and native food expert Bruce Pascoe.

One of the Elders who worked on the project, Aunty Bernadette Duncan, who is the coordinator of the Garragal Women's Language and Culture Network at Toomelah, said the study has potential to not just open economic doors, but help improve the health of local people. 

“If we start producing our own grains and flour it’s going to help, especially our old people who've been living for decades on all the white flour, salt and fat," she said.

"When they go back and eat traditional food and drink traditional herbal teas they get better."

Dr Pattison said it was important to make sure local Traditional Owners were leading the way in the study, and releasing the report on NAIDOC Week was perfectly timed.

"The recognition that it always was, is the baseline for this project," she said.

"Several people have said to me 'it can't be done' but mostly it's because they don't realise or remember, or maybe they're not willing to admit that it already has been [done] for thousands of years."

While Dr Pattison said more work needs to be done to improve production techniques and costs, she wanted to see traditional knowledge weaved in with modern technology.

"It's about what elements of what has been done can be weaved into a modern food production system and what needs to be considered in what the consumer wants today, which is a bit different to what people would have been used to back then because now we've got a huge choice of foods," she said.

"So can we, for example, mix some of the introduced flours with the native flours to make a new type of product? Can we mix some of the traditional knowledge of the use of fire in the fields, which is so important with modern harvesting methods, with machines, and how do they fit together.

"How do we make sure that knowledge that always has been can be weaved into the future so therefore it always will be."

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