Shaping Australia’s food identity

By Country News

A team of researchers is replacing clichéd Australian foods such as meat pies and lamingtons with traditional foods from the land.

The research is conducted by ARC Industrial Transformation Training Centre for Uniquely Australian Foods and is led by University of Queensland Associate Professor Yasmina Sultanbawa.

“We are working with indigenous communities across Australia, food industry entrepreneurs and a research team spanning law, engineering, food science and the social sciences to create a new agri-food sector based on uniquely Australian foods,” Prof Sultanbawa said.

“While modern Australian cuisine is culturally very diverse, there is a great interest among Australians to celebrate their own unique food heritage.

“That includes understanding the health benefits of indigenous bush foods and telling the stories of where our food comes from.”

The program has received $3.58 million in funding through ARC's Industrial Transformation Research Program.

Australian Research Council chief executive officer Sue Thomas said the training centre represented the largest research undertaken in the Australian native foods sector.

“It will train a cohort of future industry leaders to help develop sustainable and culturally appropriate models for the harvest of native bush food product, encompassing issues such as community benefit sharing, intellectual property protection and developing a uniquely Australian brand,” Ms Thomas said.

Professor Sultanbawa began the use of Kakadu plum powder as a natural antimicrobial to extend the shelf life of prawns and frozen foods.

“We are now looking at the properties of a range of native fruits, seeds and nuts to find the next Kakadu plum or lemon myrtle, but we are also looking at the unique signatures of foods grown in Australia,” she said.