The UAF team present at Mon Repos Turtle Centre for Inaugural First Nations Native Botanical and Ecotourism Industry Workshop

The UAF team present at Mon Repos Turtle Centre for Inaugural First Nations Native Botanical and Ecotourism Industry Workshop

Posted by Sophie Ader

The team very happy to arrive at their destination! Clockwise from bottom left: Sophie Ader, Gengning Chen, Dr Adiamo Oladipupo, Dr Saleha Akter, Dr Anh Phan, Sera Susan Jacob, Jaqueline Mouray Nadolny, Dr Maral Seididamyeh, Clare Wijngaarden.

A team of staff and students from the Industrial Transformational Training Centre for Uniquely Australian Foods (UAF) travelled to the Mon Repos Turtle Centre near Bundaberg to contribute to the inaugural First Nations Native Botanical and Ecotourism Industry Workshop.

This event, led by Gidarjil Development Corporation (GDC) and supported by Burnett Mary Regional Group (BMRG) arose after a discussion between these groups and Centre Director Professor Yasmina Sultanbawa and her team in the Industrial Transformational Training Centre for Uniquely Australian Foods, University of Queensland in recent months.  Supported by BMRG, GDC led this event, with guidance from special advisory committee members Hon Professor Henrietta Marrie AM (also the Indigenous Advisory Group Chair for UAF), Cameron Costello, and Angela Huston from GDC.

The firing of the cannon is a regular tradition every Thursday at 1pm in Maryborough

The journey started with a wonderful, team building and memorable road-trip from Elkhorn laboratories through the towns of Eumundi and Maryborough to Bargara Beach.  PhD students Sera Susan Jacob, Clare Wijngaarden, Gengning Chen,  Jaqueline Mouray Nadolny;  Post Doctoral Researchers Dr Maral Seididamyeh, Dr Saleha Akter, Dr Anh Phan and Dr Oladipupo Adiamo and staff member Sophie Ader enjoyed the locally made goods at cafes and shops in Eumundi, before proceeding to Maryborough, where we got to hear the traditional cannon firing! This happens every Thursday at 1pm – a local tradition which could be heard at sea so the ships captains knew what time it was.

Clare, Dr Adiamo, Dr Saleha, Dr Anh, Dr Maral, Jaqueline, Sera, Sophie and Gengning

The group arrived at Bargara beach with time to enjoy a beautiful walk along the sunset beach, before splitting for dinner, with one group being treated by hosts BMRG to dinner at Bargara Beach Hotel, and Sophie dining at Asian Cuisine to meet a number of local Elders and other guests before the conference the following day.

UAF Staff and students being treated to dinner at Bargara Beach hotel by gracious BMRG host Nicole Patterson.

Sunset at beautiful Bargara beach

Conference day

Around 60 attendees were present for this inaugural conference, which began with a Welcome to Country and smoking ceremony, and was formally opened by the honourable Tom Smith, Member of Parliament for Bundaberg and member of the State Development and Regional Industries Committee.  Keynotes were given by Dr Kerry Black, CEO of Gidarjil,  and Hon Professor Henrietta Marrie AM, both of whom set the scene for the presentations and discussions to come.

Dr Saleha, Dr Adiamo, Jaqueline, Sera, Dr Maral and Dr Anh manning the display stall at the conference

Sophie Ader provided an overview of the ARC centre – its broad objectives, what it does, and the core principles of how it works – with respect and trust and relationships with First Nations people. Sophie’s overview was followed by 5 exceptional presentations by PhD students Jackie, Clare, Gengning and Sera and now Post Doctoral researcher Adiamo. Following the presentations, all guests were treated to an outstanding native bushfoods menu of delights for lunch – oldman saltbush & lemon myrtle fishcakes, crocodile springrolls and wedges served with Kakadu Plum Sauce and sour cream were amongst some of the treats!


Sophie Ader providing an overview of the UAF centre objectives and approach, with its links to the UN’s sustainable Development Goals


Gengning Chen talking about Burdekin plum

Clare Wijngaarden talking about market insights in the native foods industry

Jaqueline Mouray Nadolny talking about her discoveries on Bunya nuts

Sera Jacob talking about Wattle seeds

Dr Adiamo Oladipupo presenting his video on wattle seeds

UAF presenters were gifted with a thankyou basket of goodies from the Bundaberg region

During the lunch break post-doctoral researchers Anh, Saleha, Maral and Adiamo and students were available to talk to delegates at a UAF display stand to give attendees a taste of the tea products and talk about some of the research.

The UAF team departed shortly after lunch, allowing the afternoons discussion to be held between the First Nations people, around what they want to develop in their region and if/how they might like to become involved with the UAF centre. An open invitation for all the first nations people was given to come and visit the UAF centre and their laboratory facilities in Long Pocket.

The conference ignited interest and started conversations around the sustainable development of the First Nations Native Botanical industry in the Burnett Mary Region.  It was  a perfect opportunity to start thinking about the development of this industry in collaboration with the tourism industry in the lead up to the 2032 Olympic games, and consider what can be planned for First Nations people in the region to benefit from this enormous opportunity over the next 10 years.

For all UAF students and staff, it was a really successful and wonderful trip, during which we got to further know one another, build friendships and enjoy each other’s company outside our usual working and research spaces. It’s a trip which will be held in all our hearts and memories!

The team enjoying a fine breakfast together at the windmill cafe in Bargara on their last day

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