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. In this way, the project also acknowledges the
intellectual property of the traditional uses of bush foods.
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.
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 outback settlement of Hermannsburg, south west of Alice
Springs. He was a watercolour artist in search of the great outback
landscape. Rex was moved by the plight of indigenous Australians,
who at that time struggled with cultural change, and had very few
prospects for employment and healthy lifestyle.
While at Hermannsburg Rex met a young camel team
worker called Albert. They developed a strong friendship, which
resulted in Rex training Albert as a landscape artist. With Rex's
mentorship, Albert Namatjira and kin became known around the world
as the Hermannsburg Watercolour movement. From those beginnings,
the current aboriginal art industry was created and has provided
valuable careers for many remote indigenous artists.
grew up with the Eastern Arrente people of the Hermannsburg and
Alice Springs area, and fondly remembers gathering bush food with the women and children.
This cultural connection has been a vital link in the Outback Pride
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 has been an
integral part of this project.
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.
Reedy Creek Nursery, in South
Australia's South East, is a wholesale nursery owned by Mike and
Gayle. Reedy Creek provides the commercial base for research and
development of all facets of the Outback Pride project.
Partnerships and Support
They decided initially to
self fund the project and have given 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 have been joined by various government
departments, including ILC, DEWR, Works SA, Dept. of the Premier
& Cabinet SA, Regional TAFE SA and Nganampa Health Council, who
have also provided valuable support to the communities involved.
A big part of the Quarmby's vision was to incorporate accredited
training for participants in the project. Groups of participants
have been 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 supports 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 the
bushfoods with western food practices, the end use products are
available under the brand name "Outback Pride".
The group of aboriginal communities that form the Outback
Pride network represent the largest bushfood growing organization