Australian Aboriginal Food
"Australian Aboriginal Food - They survived this barren land!"
An important part of the Australian Culture is its aboriginal culture. Understanding how the Aborigines survived for centuries just by eating products off the land, is a critical part of understanding Australia's heritage.
So how did they survive? What did they eat? Did the men do everything as the hunter gatherers or did the women help too?
This page aims to answer these questions and more...before understanding what has happened to the modern day Aborigines now that they have access to a wider range of bought food sources.
Australian Aboriginal Food - Eating Off The Land
For centuries aboriginals have passed down from generation to generation the secrets of the land. Clearly a skill much needed in this hot barren country. Can you imagine surviving in the heat and dessert of Central Australia for example? It really is incredible that they learned how to survive draughts, bush fires and more.
They become expert hunter gatherers, stocking up when they could to make sure they never ran out of food during the particularly difficult hot seasons for example.
So what did they eat? Their diet was high in carbohydrates, proteins and nutrients but very low in sugars and fats. The Kilojoules they consumed was actually very low. They predominantly got these key elements from uncultivated land i.e. foraging plants as well as wild animals.
The wild animals they tended to eat would be possums, kangaroos, wallabies and snakes. You can find out more information about these animals on my Australian Animals page.
The plants they used were carefully selected and this is because many of the plants and berries here in Australia can be poisonous - you really needed to know what you were doing with them.
Check out my Bush Tucker page for a full list of the type of plants, fruits, nuts and spices that they used. It also gives you some ideas where to experience true Australian Aboriginal Food for yourself.
Men and Women's Role in Australian Aboriginal Food Gathering
Clearly the men did more of the heavy work i.e. killing the animals. The infamous Aussie Boomerang was used regularly as a way of catching their prey as were spears and other small tools. These were particularly useful for killing fish.
Women had an important role to play though in gathering the plants, fruit, nuts and spices. This also included collecting insects and natural ingredients like honey. They also prepared the meat and plants before cooking.
Australian Aboriginal Food Preparation
Preparation was critical and the Aborigines had numerous ways to prepare their food.
Food was usually cooked on bush fires or they steamed their food in pits. Plants could be dried in the sun and were often boiled or soaked for weeks. In some instances the plants had to be soaked for weeks to remove poisons and toxins.
Food was usually served using the bark of a tree or in shells.
Australian Aboriginal Food Today
There are still traditional tribes throughout Australia living off the land. Arnhem land in the Northern Territory for example is host to many traditional tribes.
But the majority of Aboriginals now live a more Western lifestyle and a more western diet.
With the influx of white settlers came western ingredients like flour, sugar and processed meats. Many aboriginals worked on the cattle fields which made it hard for them to stick to their traditional foods.
Centuries later, is it really any wonder that the Aboriginal population is more likely to be obese and suffer cardiovascular illnesses than the average "white" Australian. Their ancestors had plenty of exercise and a good diet. Today, most urban aborigines have a diet high in fat and sugar (totally the reverse of their ancestors diet) and live a far more sedatery lifestyle.
We need to do more to educate them on the benefits of a balanced diet and find ways of getting more fruit and vegetables to outback communities. Urban aborigines are more likely to consume fast food products than the average Australian, they are especially prone to carbonated soft drinks and sugary products.
The Australian Government continues to give grants out to try and solve this problem but success to date has been limited. Programmes tend to be expensive and change is slow.
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