The Outback Pride Project was created by Mike and Gayle Quarmby of Reedy Creek, South Australia. It was born from a need to take a positive journey following the tragic loss of a 20 year old son. They wanted to make a difference in the lives of other young people, and felt that the most at need were the indigenous youth on remote communities.
Mike Quarmby has had a lifetime of experience in the commercial horticultural industry. During that time he was particularly involved in the development of arid zone horticultural practices. Mike's talent for innovation in species development, plant propagation, cultivation and new product development was always an integral part of this project.
Gayle's family involvement with traditional communities goes back to 1932, when her father Rex Battarbee travelled in a model T Ford to the central Australian desert. While at Hermannsburg Rex met a young camel team worker called Albert Namatjira. They developed a strong friendship, which resulted in Rex training Albert as a landscape artist.
Mike and Gayle felt that their combined skills could provide a platform for a unique development in the bush food industry. The focus of the project is their vision of "Jobs and Training for Indigenous Australians". They saw that the bush food industry should be operated as a parallel to the aboriginal art industry. Both these industries have a unique cultural and commercial ownership by Indigenous Australians.
The journey, beginning in 2001, has taken Mike and Gayle on a complex and interesting path. Initially they spent time in the outback with aboriginal people researching the bush food species. While mapping the best types relative to their commercial potential, invaluable support was received from their good friend and botanist Peter Latz.
The next step was to create the systems of propagation and cultivation for up to 64 bush food species. This process continues to be ongoing and consumes a large amount of Mike's time. The systems developed at this time were then put into practice on numerous trial sites in across South Australia and Northern Territory.
The Outback Pride Project is promoting the Australian native food industry by developing a network of production sites within traditional Aboriginal communities.
The cultivation of Australian native food provides indigenous Australians with jobs and training in horticulture and the food industry. The project also acknowledges the intellectual property of the traditional uses of bush foods.
Mike and Gayle decided initially to self fund the project and gave five years of their time at no cost to indigenous communities. After many years of mentoring, developing and supplying the plants, and helping the communities set up the growing systems, Mike and Gayle were joined by various government departments, including ILC, DEWR, Works SA, Dept. of the Premier & Cabinet SA, Regional TAFE SA and Nganampa Health Council, who also provided valuable support to the communities involved for a time.
A big part of the Quarmby's vision was to incorporate accredited training for participants in the project. Groups of participants were brought from communities to Reedy Creek Nursery to be able to access real industry work experience. A partnership between Reedy Creek Nursery and Regional TAFE SA supported this skill development process.
In order to guarantee an outcome for the participating indigenous communities, a co-op like value adding arm was developed. Combining the knowledge of traditional uses of native foods with western food practices, the end use products are available under the brand name "Outback Pride Fresh".
The group of aboriginal communities that form the Outback Pride network, together with Reedy Creek Nursery, represent the largest bushfood growing organization in Australia.
More than a decade on from the inception of 'The Outback Pride Project', the Quarmbys focus is now on fresh native food and commercial supply from their home in South Australia, Reedy Creek Nursery.
Top chefs from around Australia, and across the globe, are drawn to the unique flavour profile and cultural relevance of native ingredients. In order to facilitate a connection with indigenous food and traditional knowledge, the native food supply needed to achieve a level of quality and reliability that would both create - and then support - the demands of the restaurant industry.
Australia is home to more indigenous food plants than anywhere else in the world, but they have never been used and respected as far as the indigenous people are concerned until now. Gayle explains the bigger picture of acknowledging traditional knowledge while developing an agricultural model that can spread awareness and create an audience for the native food industry, "We are kind of bringing them with us on this journey, but we have to work hard to make this industry grow so more indigenous people can access it."
"When we eat Australian native foods, we are valuing the 40,000 years of Aboriginal knowledge of traditional food and with respect to this cultural knowledge, we all bring these fruits and herbs to its proper place in Australian cuisine. This unique food connects us to this great land and we stand equally with traditional land holders to look towards a positive future."
Find out how you can bring native food to the table.