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Master chef urges Indigenous native food businesses to get slice of $80million pie

David Prestipino -

Masterchef fan favourite and leading Indigenous chef Mindy Woods says Australia's First Nations native food industry has a massive opportunity to take ownership of growing interest in the sector currently valued at $80 million and rising.

Speaking at the Aboriginal Economic Development Forum, a three-day event on Larrakia Country at the Darwin Convention Centre, Woods gave the audience plenty of food for thought during her keynote address.

The Byron Bay restaurateur drummed home the opportunity and need for Aboriginal participation in Australia's growing native foods industry, which is projected to grow up to 10 times in the next five years.

Woods also stressed the historical cultural links between Aboriginal people and their land, with food a key connection to country.

"We treated our country as a living, breathing entity, something that we belonged to... not something that we use and took from ... and it is our duty to look after her," she said.

Woods said Australia's $80m native foods sector had just two per cent representation from First Nations businesses.

"Can you believe that ... less than two per cent of mob are represented across that entire food range, from the ground roots up," she said.

The sector was primed to explode throughout this decade and it was imperative First Nations native food businesses increased their engagement and ownership of the industry.

"So where's that money going? It is up to us to find solutions and create opportunities if we want change in the future," she said.

A MasterChef season four contestant back in 2012, Woods opened her own restaurant Karkalla on beautiful Bundjalung country in Byron Bay, showcasing the Indigenous cooking that wooed judges and fans on the hit Channel 10 show.

Originally a physiotherapist from Melbourne before her Masterchef debut, Woods has continued to spotlight Indigenous cuisine at her flourishing restaurant.

She was recently the Australian Good Food Guide's first Indigenous female Chef Hat winner, having previously been recognised in Delicious magazine.

Woods, a Bundjalung woman of the Widjabul Wia bul clan, has a strong desire to connect Indigenous and non-Indigenous people with Aboriginal culture through food, something she can do at Karkalla.

"Our food, like our culture, has a connection to country which is interwoven through out history," she said.

"Australia is not only home to the world's oldest living culture, we are also home to the oldest food on the Earth.

"These foods are rare, unique, world-class and ours to embrace, protect and celebrate.

"I would love to showcase that Indigenous Australia has a unique and vibrant culinary culture and that it is unique to each individual mob and country."

The AEDF event is in its 11th year and is now one of Australia's premier Aboriginal economic development events, showcasing the diversity and growth of NT businesses.


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