Mimili: bush foods enterprise and Anangu employment

First posted on 23 January 2008 under Employment & Mimili.
This article has been updated and archived.
Tags: commercial activities & community gardens

Summary

In 2004, the State Government provided funding for the establishment of a bush foods garden in Mimili. The goals of the project included the establishment of a sustainable small-scale business and the provision of accredited training. The rapid success of the Mimili garden led to the establishment of a similar project in another APY community. The Mimili project was originally funded for three years (until June 2007).

When the Paper Tracker inspected the garden in August 2009, it was in very poor condition. Many of the plants had died and the perimeter fence had been breached. It appeared that no work had been undertaken on the garden for a number of months.

On 4 June 2010, the Federal Government provided $16,500 towards the cost of rejuvenating the garden.

The Paper Trail

In October 2004, the State Government allocated $190,000 over three years for the establishment of a bush foods garden at Mimili.[i]

According to the Government, the bush foods garden project would:

support people from the Mimili community to cultivate Australian native food and develop a small sustainable horticultural enterprise. The creation of meaningful activity and training for the community will have long term benefits.[ii]

A contract to work with Mimili community to establish the garden was promptly awarded to Reedy Creek Nursery. Drawing on this organisation’s expertise and experience, the community prepared and fenced a large plot and installed a dripper-watering system. By November 2004, the first plantings had taken place.[iii]

Plants cultivated in the plot include: kampurarpa (desert raisins), ngaru, (Tanami applies), mangata (quandongs), umpultjai (native oranges), ili (rock figs) and unturngu (bush bananas).[iv]

The majority of the first plantings flourished. In less than four months, the project was able to trial the sale of kampurarpa and other bush foods at cost price through the local community store. Reporting on this development, the Government stated:

The aim is to provide children with healthy alternatives to commercial lollies. As the Mimili bush foods plot comes into full production a wider range of bush foods will be available through the community store.[v]

In April 2005, Reedy Creek Nursery reported on the outstanding success of the venture:

The bushfood plot continues to surpass all expectations on growth and care by the core team of workers … The Desert Raisins (Kampurarpa) have finished their first flush of fruit, which has all been consumed by the community. Our estimates (based on green fruit counts in February) was approximately 50kg of fruit, which would have had a wholesale value of $1000. The next flush due in June/July should double the first flush.

The Tanami Apples (Ngaru) are fruiting well and will be harvestable in May/June, this also should represent approximately $1000 in wholesale value. …

The Desert Oranges, Desert Yams and remaining Rock Figs are all establishing well.[vi]

By the end of 2005, the community had been harvesting crops for more than six months and excess produce was being “sold back to Reedy Creek for production of commercial relishes and sauces.”[vii] Some of the produce grown at Mimili was subsequently used by Vili’s Bakery in the production of its Bushfoods and Beef Pie.[viii]

On the basis of Mimili’s success, the State Government announced that a second bush foods plot would be established at Amata and, later, that planning for a similar project had commenced with Pukatja community.[ix]

In its monthly report for September 2006, Reedy Creek Nursery was again able to report on the success of the Mimili venture:

Mimili bushfood plot continues to please us with its high standard of general maintenance and plant health. If ever we were to have a bushfood plot to use as a standard, it would be Mimili. The participants have taken a real pride in the plot and have shown a willingness to self initiate work on a regular basis.[x]

The same report indicates that $10,189.20 of bush foods had been harvested at Mimili over a fifteen-month period (April 2005 to July 2006).[xi]

The original three-year funding commitment for the Mimili project ended on 30 June 2007.

On 29 January 2008, the Paper Tracker asked the State Government to indicate that amount of funding, if any, that it had committed to the Mimili bush garden project for 2007/08.

In a reply dated 19 March 2008, the State Government neglected to provide the requested information.[xii]

The State Government did, however, advise us that:

  • while the garden was originally developed as a commercial activity, Mimili’s preference is now to maintain it “primarily as a source of fresh food for community consumption”,
  • Mimili community members “continue to receive support to manage their bush foods gardens from a number of state and Australian Government agencies”,
  • work on the garden continues “as a CDEP activity” with “technical support” provided by Reedy Creek Nursery.[xiii]

Training and employment

As well as producing bush foods, the goal of the Mimili project was to provide formal training and ongoing employment for Anangu.[xiv]

Although in April 2005, Reedy Creek Nursery reported that project participants were “very keen for the commencement of the TAFE training,” statements contained in the 2005 Annual Report of the Department of Further Education, Employment, Science and Technology suggests no formal training was provided in that calendar year:

In conjunction with training programs developed and delivered by TAFE, participants will be enrolled in relevant horticultural modules which will be delivered by visiting lecturers and TAFE staff on the Lands.[xv] (emphasis added)

Things seemed more certain in 2006. For example, in September that year, the State Minister responsible for training and employment inspected the project during a visit to Mimili. Reedy Creek Nursery subsequently described the Minister as having been “very excited about the project” and as having “indicated his full support for the training through Mimili TAFE.”[xvi]

Two months later, the Department of the Premier and Cabinet reported:

Some participants in this project have enrolled with APY Lands TAFE and are undertaking units from the Certificate 1 in Conservation and Land Management. Subjects include: weeding, OHSW, plant recognition, pests/diseases and irrigation.[xvii]

Elsewhere, in a 2006 news report, TAFE SA stated that ten Anangu from Mimili were in the process of completing Certificate II in Conservation and Land Management.[xviii]

TAFE SAs commitment to the project was further underscored at the end of 2006 when it opened a new training facility at Mimili.[xix]

In April 2008, the Paper Tracker sought information on the provision of horticultural training at Mimili in 2007.

In a reply dated 29 April 2008, the Department for Further Education, Employment, Science and Technology reported that no Anangu students had “obtained a horticultural qualification/certificate in Mimili in 2007.” Nor had any students “completed an accredited horticultural unit.”[xx]

The Department added:

APY TAFE responds to the needs of individuals and organisations in the community. At this stage, horticulture training at Mimili has not been expressed as a priority; however, the expertise of the community based lecturer in the horticulture area is being promoted at the local level.[xxi]

Support for the 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 Mimili and Amata 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.”[xxii]

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 Mimili carry out “minor maintenance” such as weeding, but there is “little to no incentive or enthusiasm to work on the gardens.” [xxiii]

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

On 17 August 2009, the Paper Tracker inspected the Mimili bush food garden. At that time, the plot was in a poor condition 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.

Additional information (added 22 July 2010)

On 4 June 2010, the Federal Government approved funding of $16,500 to support community efforts to rejuvenate the Mimili bush foods garden.[xxiv]

When the Paper Tracker inspected the garden on 23 June 2010 some repairs to the garden – particularly its perimeter fence – had already been completed.

On 1 July 2010, the Federal Government agreed to continue to support efforts to maintain the garden as an “alternative source of fresh fruit and vegetables” as part of a broader strategy to “provide and encourage healthy eating alternatives” for the Mimili community.[xxv]

This article was last updated in July 2010. It 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] The funding was provided for the financial years 2004/05, 2005/06 and 2006/07 (Department of the Premier and Cabinet. 2004, “Taskforce funded projects on the APY Lands”). In early 2005, the funding commitment was increased to $255,000 (Department of the Premier and Cabinet. 2005, “Taskforce funded projects on the APY Lands”).

[ii] Mazel, J. 11 November 2004, Statement to Coroner, paragraph 75 (Exhibit C10).

[iii] “Progress on the APY Lands,” 16 March 2005, Department of the Premier and Cabinet (SA), p9.

[iv] Information listed on “Mimili” page, Outback Pride website: www.outbackpride.com.au/communities/mimili.asp. Accessed 18 January 2008.

[v] “Progress on the APY Lands,” 16 March 2005, Department of the Premier and Cabinet (SA), p10.

[vi] Reedy Creek Nursery. April 2005, “Mimili Bushfoods Project,” monthly report, p2.

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

[viii] “Progress on the APY Lands,” August 2006, Department of the Premier and Cabinet (SA), p12.

[ix] “Progress on the APY Lands,” December 2005, Department of the Premier and Cabinet (SA), p11. “Progress on the APY Lands,” August 2006, Department of the Premier and Cabinet (SA), p12. In the August 2006, the Government noted that Iwantja community had also expressed interest in establishing a bush foods plot. On 19 March 2008, in relation to the establishment of a garden at Pukatja, the Department advised: “Previous discussions with Pukatja community members about opportunities to establish a bush food plot were based on CDEP involvement. The Pukatja CDEP program ceased for some time following those discussions. The CDEP program has now resumed in Pukatja, and this will provide one avenue to establish a community plot if there is interest in such an enterprise” (Mazel, J. 19 March 2008, Letter to P McDonald).

[x] Reedy Creek Nursery. September 2006, “Mimili Bushfoods Project,” monthly report, p2.

[xi] Reedy Creek Nursery. September 2006, “Mimili Bushfoods Project,” monthly report, p8.

[xii] Mazel, J. 19 March 2008, Letter to P McDonald.

[xiii] Mazel, J. 19 March 2008, Letter to P McDonald.

[xiv] For example, in May 2005, the Premier of South Australian told Parliament: that the “native gardens” on the APY Lands were “providing training and sustainable employment” (Rann, M. 5 May 2005, Hansard, House of Assembly, Parliament of South Australia).

[xv] Department for Further Education, Employment, Science and Techonology, 2005, Annual Report 2005 – Section 6, p75. The following statement from December 2005 supports the conclusion that no formal training was provided by TAFE in 2005: “Mimili community members will be given on the job training and will be able to undertake horticultural training though TAFE” (“Progress on the APY Lands,” December 2005, Department of the Premier and Cabinet (SA), p10).

[xvi] Reedy Creek Nursery. September 2006, “Mimili Bushfoods Project,” monthly report, p2.

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

[xviii] TAFE SA, 2006, “Mimili Bush Fruits a Commercial Success,” online news report, http://www.tafe.sa.edu.au/Default.aspx?tabid=1407. Accessed: 17 January 2008.

[xix] “Progress on the APY Lands,” February 2007, Department of the Premier and Cabinet (SA), p12.

[xx] Bensted, E. 29 April 2008, Letter to Rev P McDonald.

[xxi] Bensted, E. 29 April 2008, Letter to Rev P McDonald.

[xxii] 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).

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

[xxiv] This funding was provided to Reedy Creek Nursery Pty Ltd by the Federal Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. Grant funding of $16,500 was approved on 4 June 2010 (Grant ID number: 70438).

[xxv] Commonwealth of Australia, 2010. Planning together for Mimili’s future: APY Lands Remote Service Delivery, Local Implementation Plan, p51.

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