Terra Madre event focuses on Indigenous food economy

The inaugural Australian Terra Madre event to be held in Mildura on 19 November will feature a speakers panel on the theme of ‘Our food, our country: Good, clean, fair in our past, present and future’.

Darren Perry, a Ngintait man whose country includes Mulcra Island on the Murray River, is one of the keynote speakers. “As former Chair of Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations I’ve been heavily involved in cultural water planning for the past four years,” Mr Perry said. “Us river people had a whole economy based on the resources from the river, fish, freshwater mussels, turtles. We traded and lived off the river. That’s all been taken from us and we’re fighting to get some of it back.”

Deb Bogenhuber, Co-Leader of Slow Food Mildura who are hosting the event, said “There is a conversation now about how our land and waters were managed very carefully by First Nations people before colonisation. The evidence of farming and aquaculture has always been there but it’s only starting to be talked about now.”

Bruce Pascoe’s book The Dark Emu, which received the Victorian Premier’s literary award this year, presents extensive evidence from early explorers’ diaries of land and water management techniques used by First Nations people. “Basically our country was managed to maximise sustainable food production,” Ms Bogenhuber said. “When I heard Mr Perry talk about the river economy and what it meant to the First Peoples who relied on it I had never heard it put that way before. It really hit home to me and I hope that we can get that message out to more people through the Slow Food conference and Terra Madre event.”

Ms Bogenhuber said “I’m honoured that Mr Perry accepted our invitation and I hope it’s the start of something more. We have a lot of young people in particular in our community who are looking for ways to work with First Nations people around food production, especially native food plants and also kangaroo as a protein source.”

Mr Perry will lead a panel of speakers following an introduction by Stefano de Pieri who helped start Slow Food in Mildura 15 years ago. The panel will start at 1 pm at the Lawn Tennis Club, following the Terra Madre market held in conjunction with Sunraysia Farmers Market in the morning at Jaycee Park. Attendance is free and the public are encouraged to come along and hear from some of Australia’s experts in local food issues.