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Bininj man's drive to reclaim bush tucker for First Nations people

Emma Ruben -

For Bininj man Ben Tyler, food has always been about family, the community kitchen and of course, bush tucker.

Growing up in Kakadu, it was influences from his mother's kitchen which inspired him to bring Bininj culture into the native food industry with his business, Kakadu Kitchen.

Mr Tyler founded Kakadu Kitchen, a bush food brand, in 2017 with the mentality of championing healthy and local bush tucker food.

As for how he started Kakadu Kitchen, Tyler said it was a paradigm shift in his mind.

"I started looking at what was on our family kitchen table, so my mum's community kitchen table," he said.

"And there was fruit and veggies from our community garden like pawpaws and mangoes and there was bush tucker from the bush, sometimes it'd be a crocodile tail, or maybe yams, or mussels.

"So I started taking photos of what was on the dining table sort of in a documentary style because I was interested in documenting the Bininj diet so I started an Instagram account.

"Then later, that sort of evolved into wanting to start a business in the community around bush tucker."

Tyler said that Kakadu Kitchen's mission was to share Bininj culture with as many people as possible in order for it to live on forever.

"My grandmother, one of her key messages was she really wanted to continue passing on the culture of our bush culture," he said.

"It's good to do cooking in modern ways but it's also important that we maintain our traditional methods as well that have been handed on for 1000s and 1000s of years.

"For example when we cook goose, we have to prepare that goose in a particular way.

"There's a way that we do it for our mob, and other mobs they do it a different way that follows their tradition so maintaining tradition is important."

Tyler singled out climate change as one of the key challenges facing the native foods industry.

He is concerned within a decade parts of Kakadu known for their freshwater produce will become saltwater country if current trends continue.

"The creeks and billabongs where we collect our water lilies on my mum's country, it's all beautiful wetland country which is a powerhouse of bush tucker," he said.

"So maybe within five or ten years from the year 2030 that whole area of Kakadu will be under sea water and we'll be fishing for sea turtle instead of freshwater turtle."

Now studying a Bachelor of Business at Charles Darwin University, Tyler is expanding Kakadu Kitchen by developing a range of alcohol-free spirits in collaboration with Willing Distillery.

"Kakadu Kitchen stands for health, nature and culture and so our values are about connection, wellness," Tyler said.

"And so doing an alcoholic beverage was out of the question, you know we're only interested in doing healthy products that are good for people.

"We wanted to have social options for sober drinkers."

Tyler is opening up his own distillery next to Willing Distillery in the Northern Territory sometime this year. He will be at the Taste of Kakadu from May 20 to 29.

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