Amata: bush foods commercial enterprise

First posted on 29 April 2008 under Amata.
This article has been updated and archived.
Tags: commercial activities & community gardens

Summary

Amata bush food garden, 2009

Amata bush food garden, 2009

In 2005, a bush food garden was established at Amata. It provided local Anangu with a ready supply of fresh bush foods. Surplus produce was sold commercially. In January 2007, the State Government commissioned a ‘South Australian Bush Foods Industry Report.’ As part of that process, the consultant commissioned to prepare the report was required to develop a business plan for the establishment of a commercial enterprise at Amata.

The Paper Tracker has inspected Amata’s bush food garden on a number of occasions, the last being on 19 August 2009. On that date, parts of the garden had been burnt out and its perimeter fence was broken in a number of places. It appeared that no work had been undertaken on the garden for many months.

The Paper Trail

In August 2005, work commenced on the establishment of a bush food garden at Amata.[i] Within three months, the first plantings had occurred.[ii]

The decision to establish a garden at Amata built on the earlier success of a similar garden at Mimili.

The purpose of the Amata garden was “to provide a ready supply of fresh bush foods for community consumption, with any surplus being sold into the Outback Pride supply chain.”[iii]

The produce grown at Amata included: kampurarpa (desert raisins), mangata (quandongs), umpultjai (native oranges), ili (rock figs) and unturngu (bush bananas).[iv]

On 15 January 2008, the Premier of South Australia (Hon Mike Rann MP) drew attention to the success of both the Amata and Mimili gardens as well as the economic opportunities associated with them. He wrote:

There are bush-tucker food projects, with native market gardens established in Mimili and Amata that are tended by the local people, improving diet and stimulating economic development.[v]

Commercial Opportunities

In January 2007, the State Government’s Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation Division (AARD) engaged a consultant to:

provide a report on the status of the South Australian bush foods industry and Indigenous participation in the industry, with recommendations to maximise Indigenous participation.[vi]

The total value of the contract awarded to the consultant was $95,700, with the work scheduled to be completed by 27 April 2007.[vii]

Under the terms of the contract, the final report was required to include information on:

  • the employment and financial returns of the bush food industry,
  • its commercial viability and sustainability,
  • training needs and potential employment generation, and
  • options for industry structure and funding requirements.[viii]

The consultant was also required to prepare a “business plan case study” for the expansion of the existing bush foods enterprise at Amata.[ix] The plan was to:

include an assessment of the feasibility of a commercial size bush foods horticultural enterprise and provide a framework and action plan for the development of the project.[x]

The contract indicates that the business plan must include information on:

  • infrastructure/machinery requirements
  • workforce and training requirements
  • food storage/handling/transport requirements
  • finance plan and likely funding sources
  • supply chain and marketing, and
  • a proposed business structure.[xi]

On 5 June 2007, two months after the report was due to be completed, the State Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation (Hon Jay Weatherill MP) noted that “the success of the Amata plot has led to an interest in the development of a commercial-sized plot” and that “both the state and the commonwealth [were] considering funding that development.”[xii]

On 9 December 2007, ABC Television’s Landline reported on the success of the bush food gardens in Mimili and Amata. The segment highlighted the possibility of commercial operations being established on the APY Lands. Representatives of Outback Pride commented:

Our desire … with the assistance of government, State and Federal, [is to] expand the program on those communities where it has proven to be exceptionally viable. And bring it to the level where we have significant employment in remote places where there’s no chance of any other jobs. And, so we’ve been working tirelessly to get that to happen. It’s getting very, very close.[xiii]

We have had very fruitful and very positive conversations with multiple departments and we’re this close to getting really big, you know, 10 acres of kampurarpa growing in the [APY] Lands.[xiv]

Notwithstanding the success of the Amata garden, as of 29 April 2008, the findings and recommendations of the 2007 consultant’s report had not been released. Neither had the State nor the Federal Government announced funding for the establishment of commercial operations at Amata.

On 3 June 2008, the Paper Tracker visited Amata community. At the time of the visit, the community’s garden appeared neglected.

On 3 July 2008, the Paper Tracker asked the State Government for:

  • a copy of the consultant’s final report,
  • some indication as to the Government’s response to the consultant’s recommendations,
  • a copy of the case study for expanding the bush foods enterprise at Amata, and
  • an outline of any plans the Government had to establish a commercial bush foods enterprise on the APY Lands.[xv]

On 19 August 2008, the State Government provided the Paper Tracker with a copy of consultant’s report. Entitled South Australian Native Foods Industry Report and dated November 2007, the report makes the following recommendations:

Recommendation 1: Hold a forum for key stakeholders in the Native Foods industry in South Australia to discuss the findings of this report.

Recommendation 2: Consider the formation of a formal network linking Indigenous enterprises, grower groups and industry players.

Recommendation 3: That a South Australia Native Food Agency Working Group be formed to support existing and proposed Indigenous enterprises in South Australia.

Recommendation 4: A set of minimum criteria is met prior to Agencies considering the funding of Indigenous enterprises involvement in commercial native food plots.[xvi]

In its reply to the Paper Tracker’s request, the State Government indicated that the proposed stakeholder forum had been held on 26 June 2008 and was “well-attended by representatives from a range of stakeholders including growers, buyers and industry groups.” It noted that the forum had agreed to form a network to assist with information dissemination and to provide “support and access to resources and possible market opportunities.”[xvii]

The Government also indicated that the Steering Committee that had originally commissioned the report would “now establish a working group of government agencies to support both existing and proposed Indigenous native food enterprises” and that:

it is envisaged that this working group [will] assess the economic viability of any proposed commercial bush food enterprises prior to the provision of financial or business assistance.[xviii]

Concerning the business plan for the expansion of the existing bush foods enterprise at Amata, the Government noted that this plan had been prepared “separate” to the main report for the consideration of the Amata Community Council and that, therefore, it was “not considered appropriate that any member of the Steering Committee, including the Department of the Premier and Cabinet, provide this to a third party.”[xix]

While the Paper Tracker recognises the importance of commercial confidentiality, it notes that the contract issued to the consultant described the Amata business plan as a “case study.”[xx] On that basis, the Paper Tracker believes that the general findings – if not the fine detail – of the business plan should be freely available to, among others, all Anangu communities with an interest in developing a bush food enterprise.

The bush food garden in 2009

On 3 March 2009, the State Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation (Hon Jay Weatherill MP) informed the South Australian Parliament that:

  • the annual operating costs of the Amata and Mimili bush food gardens consists “principally” of the “CDEP wages of those who work on the plots along with the supply of water and power,”
  • “CDEP wages for the workers and supervisor is approximately $60,000 for a 12-month period,”
  • “the cost to supply water and power to the two plots are absorbed by the relevant community into their general operating costs”, and
  • “the Department of the Premier and Cabinet (DPC) continues to support the maintenance and development of [both] bush food plots … by contracting the provision of horticultural expertise and practical on-site maintenance to 9 June at a cost of $56,000.”[xxi]

Ten days later, on 13 March 2009, the Federal Government provided the Paper Tracker with a statement prepared by Bungala Aboriginal Corporation (the CDEP provider for the APY Lands). The statement indicated that Bungala had largely “withdrawn CDEP participation” from the Bush Gardens subsequent to DPC appointing staff to work “directly” on the gardens. According to Bungala, CDEP participants in Amata and Mimili carry out “minor maintenance” such as weeding, but there is “little to no incentive or enthusiasm to work on the gardens.” [xxii]

Bungala also indicated that while it had discussed the possibility of a family group in Amata taking on the bush garden as a small business enterprise, it was “skeptical around the viability of this.”[xxiii]

The Paper Tracker notes that some of the information provided by the Federal Government concerning the work of CDEP participants on the bush garden appears to be in conflict with the statements made by the State Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation on 3 March 2009.

Additional information (added 11 September 2009)

On 18 March 2009, the Paper Tracker inspected the Amata bush food garden. At that time, the plot was overgrown with weeds and wild grasses and its protective perimeter fence had been broken in a number of places. It appeared that no work had been undertaken on the garden for a number of months.

The condition of the bush food garden had not improved when the Paper Tracker next visited Amata on 19 August 2009. By then, parts of the garden had been destroyed by fire.

This article has been archived and will no longer be updated. It will, however, remain accessible online as a source of background information for anyone wishing to undertake further research on this issue. Information included in the article was current at the time it was archived. Keep in mind, however, that Ministerial changes and names of departments, among other things, may have since changed.


[i] Government of South Australia, February 2006, “Submission from the Government of South Australia to the Senate Community Affairs References Committee Inquiry into Petrol Sniffing in remote Aboriginal communities,” Submission 29A, p17.

[ii] “Progress on the APY Lands,” December 2005, Department of the Premier and Cabinet (SA), p11.

[iii] Department of the Premier and Cabinet, November 2006, “Bush Food Plots – Mimili and Amata,” Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Bulletin, p1.

[iv] Reedy Creek Nursery. September 2006, “Amata Bushfoods Project,” monthly report. See also:  www.outbackpride.com.au/communities/amata.asp Accessed: 17 April 2008.

[v] Rann, M. 15 January 2008, “Pool resources to benefit Aborigines,” The Australian, p12.

[vi] Schedule 1 (page 3), attachment to: Mazel, J. 26 January 200[7], Letter to D. Muller. (Available at: www.tenders.sa.gov.au/tenders/contract/view.do?id=2467 Accessed 17 April 2008).

[vii] This information was published on the SA Tenders & Contracts website under Contract Reference AARD002. See: www.tenders.sa.gov.au/tenders/contract/view.do?id=2467 Accessed 17 January 2008.

[viii] “Annex B: Scope of information required in final report,” attachment to: “Bush foods report contract final.pdf”, available at: www.tenders.sa.gov.au/tenders/contract/view.do?id=2467 Accessed 17 April 2008).

[ix] “Annex B: Scope of information required in final report,” attachment to: “Bush foods report contract final.pdf”, available at: www.tenders.sa.gov.au/tenders/contract/view.do?id=2467 Accessed 17 April 2008).

[x] “Annex B: Scope of information required in final report,” attachment to: “Bush foods report contract final.pdf”, available at: www.tenders.sa.gov.au/tenders/contract/view.do?id=2467 Accessed 17 April 2008).

[xi] “Annex B: Scope of information required in final report,” attachment to: “Bush foods report contract final.pdf”, available at: www.tenders.sa.gov.au/tenders/contract/view.do?id=2467 Accessed 17 April 2008).

[xii] Weatherill, J. 5 June 2007, Hansard, House of Assembly, Parliament of South Australia, p312.

[xiii] Quarmby. M. 9 December 2007 in transcript of “Outback Pride” segment. Reporter Prue Adams. Landline, ABC TV,  http://www.abc.net.au/landline/content/2006/s2110762.htm. Accessed: 17 April 2008.

[xiv] Quarmby. G. 9 December 2007 in transcript of “Outback Pride” segment. Reporter Prue Adams. Landline, ABC TV,  http://www.abc.net.au/landline/content/2006/s2110762.htm. Accessed: 17 April 2008.

[xv] These requests were made in a letter signed by the Rev Peter McDonald, Minister, UnitingCare Wesley Adelaide. The letter was dated 3 July 2008

[xvi] Armstrong Muller Consulting. November 2007, South Australian Native Foods Industry Report, p2.

[xvii] Ashby. S. 19 August 2008, Letter to Rev P McDonald.

[xviii] Ashby. S. 19 August 2008, Letter to Rev P McDonald.

[xix] Ashby. S. 19 August 2008, Letter to Rev P McDonald.

[xx] “Annex B: Scope of information required in final report,” attachment to: “Bush foods report contract final.pdf”, available at: www.tenders.sa.gov.au/tenders/contract/view.do?id=2467 Accessed 17 April 2008).

[xxi] This information was provided in response to questions asked by Dr Duncan McFetridge MP (Member for Morphett) on 21 October 2008 (see: Weatherill, J. 3 March 2009, “Mimili and Amata Bush Gardens,” Hansard, House of Assembly, Parliament of South Australia).

[xxii] Cox, T (FaHCSIA). 13 March 2009, email to J. Nicholls. The email included a statement prepared and provided by Bungala Aboriginal Corporation.

[xxiii] Cox, T (FaHCSIA). 13 March 2009, email to J. Nicholls. The email included a statement prepared and provided by Bungala Aboriginal Corporation.

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