Black Duck Foods - An Agricultural Revolution

It’s exciting when the work we do means that we can be involved in something that is of benefit to not only our direct community but the rest of the country too. 

Some of you may have heard of Bruce Pascoe. His book, Dark Emu, caught the attention of the nation. It ruffled feathers, it challenged our formal history education, it collated evidence and recorded knowledge. It revealed a new truth, that before colonisation, Aboriginal people were involved in agriculture, growing and milling crops as an ongoing source of food. As a Boonwurrung and Yuin man, Bruce has long had a fascination with the untold history of Aboriginal Australia. The research for his book went deep into the diaries of the early explorers of the country, unravelling the previously thought beliefs that the Indigenous people of Australia lived purely by a hunter-gatherer lifestyle.

His latest venture, Black Duck Foods, started with Lyn Harwood and Jack Pascoe, hopes to bring these native crops back into popular use. It intends to strengthen empowerment in the people whose heritage this practice belongs to and is (with baby steps) bringing back environmental stability to the country in the process. 

Re-learning the processes for harvesting and releasing seed from crops such as the mandadyan nalluk, kangaroo grass, warrigal greens, samphires and water ribbons, the team are making way for these foods to be a staple in every Australian’s pantry. This not for profit was the obvious next step following Dark Emu as Australia became more aware of what native produce this country is able to provide. Bruce and Lyn have poured all their efforts into setting Black Duck Foods up as something that is empowering, educational and potentially wave-making as it makes its way into the public eye. Already, Bruce is getting up to eight calls a day from restaurateurs wanting to start using these ingredients in their fare. It’s an exciting reincarnation of a near-forgotten warehouse of goods.

One of the key elements of Black Duck Foods is providing training and employment for young Indigenous people, to help teach culture and keep it alive. As much as we try to avoid cliche phrases, we all know that actions speak louder than words and while we’re at it - this is an enterprise that is being the change they want to see in the world (starting with the country). From the empowerment of strength of culture and understanding to the appreciation of the population,  leading to improved respect for the insight of our Indigenous Australians being a wealth of knowledge. Encouraging this mass education and treating our land as it’s supposed to be could lead to better environmental impacts for all, increased food security, and massive financial returns from sales and eventually, exports.

This is a proactive, grassroots movement to empower community - especially Indigenous men - to be involved in meaningful work, develop their connection to country and educate the broader audience with the opportunity to purchase goods and services. 

Black Duck Foods has been in the works for a few years now. It is a rolling stone that has been able to gain speed through the support of other like-minded organisations and sponsors. We have been thrilled to be able to work with this enterprise as they have evolved into what they are now, first helping develop their logo and branding, and most recently designing and developing the website (with the help of the team at HutSix of course). We see Black Duck Foods as a turning point in the heard voice of Indigenous culture and truth based conversation within Australia. 

At bellette, we do a lot of work with Indigenous organisations. We so value what we learn with each and every project, whether it be a few phrases, a story, a piece of history - it all feels essential. We live and work on Aboriginal land. It is important that we view this as an honour, and offer our support with whatever may bring the already strong culture that is embedded in this place to the foreground of people’s minds.