Traditional Owners are welcoming visitors with a unique combination of traditional food, culture, and language, during the week-long inaugural festival.
NITV Staff Writer

19 May 2017 - 4:11 PM  UPDATED 19 May 2017 - 4:27 PM

The Traditional Owners of World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park have joined forces with Parks Australia to showcase their culture in a new way.

The first ‘Taste of Kakadu’ festival has taken visitors into the different areas of the park to forage for bush tucker, to then cook it later.

Kakadu senior Bininj woman, Traditional Owner and park board member, Mandy Muir, told NITV News the activity has been very successful so far.

“We’ve had up to 50 people in each foraging activity. The big food cook up to 100 people!”

She explained her family and other locals have been involved in the festival through their businesses. Other families from other areas of the park, like the east alligator area, have also taking visitors on forages.

“We’re the ones with the knowledge. Me and my family have our community, but we also have our family business, and Parks have supported our business,” she said.

Ms Muir says organising the activities can be exhausting, but people enjoy it very much and the families feel proud to give them the experience and share their culture.

“We currently serve bush foods from time to time to our guests. With this festival they (Parks) involved us in the forefront, offering bush tucker, working close with the hotels and providing some of those experiences.”

“We’re already in my family talking to Parks about doing it once a month!,” she said enthusiastically.

“I was reading a message that someone sent to me saying it was a highlight of their trip to the Northern Territory!”

Ms Muir said it’s interesting for her to see some guests tasting the food for the first time.

“Everyone has a go at tasting it. They make faces at the green ants, but then they like it!,” she said between giggles.  

70 ways to experience culture

The idea for the festival has been on the boil for some time.

Ms Muir says last year, the park held weaving activities for guests during their ‘discovery month’. It was the first time. The experience was well received, so they decided to take it a step further.

“This year, we’re trailing this over one week, from Sunday to Sunday... We have 70 activities in total.”

One of the most meaningful activities was the language lessons.

“We speak the Gunbjeihmi language, so we did a little trial workshop for one hour, at the hotel, going through basic language with guests,” she explained.

“It was great! It was a good crowd.”

Muir says the guests’ response was positive.

“They definitely enjoyed it. There’s a lot of interest, especially from all the organisations here. They work with us, so they want to interact with our local people.

Other a activities included in the festival we  boutique dinners, campfire stories, bush tucker walks, cooking demonstrations, sunset tasting sessions, as well as hunting and gathering talks.\

“We have our own business and if we have support from Parks, we’ll continue to do it. I love it, I love this kind of thing."

Food for the heart and soul

A highlight of the festival so far, was a traditional brunch with Ms Muir and Ngemba Indigenous chef Sharon Windsor, on Thursday, which included turtle on the menu.

Indigenous celebrity chef Zach Green has also been showing visitors how to incorporate native Indigenous food into everyday cuisine in a free workshop at the Crocodile Hotel.

Green ants, magpie goose, waterlilies and wild rosella are just some of the native Australian delicacies to be served at a fine dining pop-up under the stars in the heart of Kakadu on Saturday.

The team from roaming restaurant Fervor have been wandering the park with Traditional Owners to source freshly foraged ingredients and give them a modern twist.

Chef Paul 'Yoda' Iskov has been bush bashing and scouring the coastline in search of nature's bounty, ahead of the 10-course degustation dinner held at a secret open-air spot within the park on Saturday night.

"The location is a very significant site that has been inaccessible for close to 20 years," Mr Iskov told AAP.

"It has almost 360 views, and there'll be Traditional Owners there to talk about their country and the stories behind it."

Fervor works in collaboration with local Indigenous people across the country, harnessing their knowledge to uncover unexpected produce and promote sustainable living practices.

That means each feast is an adventure weeks in the making, set in pristine landscapes ranging from deserts, salt lakes, idyllic beaches and remote islands off the southern coast of Western Australia.

Ms Muir hopes ‘A taste of Kakadu’ is not just a one-off.

“We have our own business and if we have support from Parks, we’ll continue to do it. I love it, I love this kind of thing."