Celebrating Our Story- Uniquely Australian Foods 2023 Event

Celebrating Our Story- Uniquely Australian Foods 2023 Event

Posted by Christopher Peter Sauer

As the Uniquely Australian Foods (UAF) ARC Training Centre is beginning to wind down, we hosted a two-day celebration at the end of October to acknowledge all we have been able to achieve in a short four years. This event featured the Training Centre’s Indigenous partners, business owners, Professors, Postdoctoral Researchers, HDR PhD students, and even UQ’s Vice Chancellor; Deborah Terry. We shared our work with each other, discussed new developments, and learned more about the intersection between working with native Australian food, Indigenous businesses, and research.

Day 1

It was very special to be commended so highly from not only a member of the Australian Research Council, but also from the UQ Vice Chancellor. These special guests were gifted some traditional food products from our Indigenous partners, as well as a handmade recipe book with each staff and student member of the training centre’s favourite recipe from their home country.

Centre Director Professor Yasmina Sultanbawa then delivered what was really quite an emotional and heartfelt speech, expressing how proud she is of all of her staff and students. We are all very lucky to have Yasmina and are forever grateful of the UAF family she has created. To ‘officially’ celebrate our UAF family, there was a cake cutting ceremony, and we all tucked into some morning tea. I think most of us had never seen a bigger cake in our life! It was hand-crafted by some of our lovely Indigenous partners, of course made with some of our favourite bush foods such as Davidson plum and lemon myrtle!

We learned about the perspective of an Indigenous training centre scholar, Sherie Bruce, and the work she is doing with Native Fungi. We then heard from several other PhD students and Postdoctoral scholars who shared their research about native Australian plants health benefits, opportunities for introducing Australian plants into our diets, and the legal dynamics of coordinating research practices between Indigenous partners and researchers.

Into the afternoon, there was a discussion with our UAF Industry Partners, followed by a discussion with our UAF Indigenous Partners. The Industry and Indigenous partners discussed the challenges and opportunities of working with Australian native food. The day concluded with a discussion about future interdisciplinary opportunities within food, Indigenous products, and economic opportunities. These exciting discussions continued over dinner that night.

Day 2

We kicked off day 2 with a very important celebration- making a dedication to the late Ann Shanley, a dearly loved Partner Investigator of the Centre from the Kindred Spirits foundation. Ann played an instrumental part in establishing the UAF Training Centre and much of its success is owed to her. In her honour, we had a bench put just outside our building, now known as “Ann’s Bench”, and planted a lemon myrtle tree near it.

Attendees sat in on a ‘yarning circle’ with researchers and Indigenous partners about bush foods, health, and incorporating the example of Indigenous food alternatives such as a low sugar beverage as part of future opportunities. There was a panel discussion with UAF Indigenous business partners around their opportunities and challenges with their businesses and also the role of native foods in social and health justice.

In the afternoon we were introduced to an app under development that will enhance the traceability of food products from Indigenous-owned enterprises as a way to innovate more opportunities for consumers to understand exactly where a product from Indigenous Australian entrepreneurs comes from.

Concluding thoughts

If there is one word to summarise this two-day event, it would be ‘special’. At the heart of our Uniquely Australian Foods family, there is this warm and magical atmosphere (a feeling which is actually really difficult to put into words!) that enables great things to happen, and this was reinforced loudly over these few days. This event helped bring closure to 2023 and provide focus for 2024 and beyond.

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