From the land to the pan, Palawa Kipli is serving up traditional Tasmanian Aboriginal dishes with a focus on bringing awareness to culture and creating a sustainable future.

Incorporating unique flavours from traditional foods eaten on the island state for tens of thousands of years, Palawa Kipli is the only Tasmanian Aboriginal food business in Australia.

At the helm of the business is Kitana Mansell, a project manager for the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre sharing her passion of natural food resources of Lutruwita (Tasmania) with her community.

Working through the centre’s catering program, the business aims to pass on knowledge of Palawa culture and allows others to recognise that “Aboriginal food is Australian food”.

“The reason why Palawa Kipli started is because in Australia, when people ask you what Australian food is, people usually say it’s Vegemite, or ‘shrimp on the barbie’. When really, it’s actually Tasmanian Aboriginal food. It’s the main resources that naturally grow on the land,” said Mansell.

“Being brought up in the Tasmanian Aboriginal community my whole life, I’ve been able to share my cultural knowledge and my bush tucker knowledge with the rest of my community and educate people through that.”

Palawa Kipli aims to introduce dishes with modern spins on Palawa culture and showcase traditional ways of cooking food. The Palawa Kipli menu is no stranger to native edible plants packed with flavour, seafood from coastal areas and other protein sources like wallaby.

“Mutton bird is a really well-known product that we use, which is a Tasmanian Aboriginal meat. We still do those cultural practices … of mutton birding with sheds based in Badger Island, Big Dog Island and Babel Island,” said Mansell.

“Having mutton birds and continuing that cultural practice is a really important part of reconnecting with our culture and being on Country with our community.”

“We also use wallaby by cooking it over a hot fire in the traditional way … with a spear threaded through the wallaby and using our bush tucker to marinate it.”

Mansell’s latest dressing creation incorporates native ingredients of pepper berry and blue-gum honey as the hero flavours, which are “fruity and spicy” and pair well with natural oysters.

Sustainability is also at the heart of Tasmanian Aboriginal food and is reflected through Palawa Kipli’s practices.

“For the last six months, we’ve been working on a community garden and so all of our plants are native edible plants. Once that starts to grow up and all the plants start regenerating from the areas of Piyura Kitina/Risdon Cove … we’ll be able to harvest those plants ourselves,” said Mansell.

“We won’t need to have to go to different places around Tasmania to gather those bush tucker plants, we can actually get them ourselves and learn how to wild harvest them.

“Having all Tasmanian local produce is another thing—by not getting more ingredients from the mainland, it actually also helps the environment with less transporting and making sure that we’re helping out Tasmanian local businesses as well.”

Kitana Mansell is at the helm of Palawa Kipli in Hobart, Tasmania. Photo supplied.

Mansell said one of the most rewarding things about leading the business is strengthening Palawa culture through educating others about the “edible history” of traditional food.

“Even though a lot of our community are engaging and reconnecting with their culture, I think that what we used to eat … got taken away from us. And we lost a lot of that part of our culture,” Mansell said.

“I think as a young person to be able to step up to the plate and try and educate people with bush tucker in the community, and bring that back into our culture in doing those cooking practices again … [helps] our community to become stronger in what we know.”

Much more than just a catering business, Palawa Kipli also offers cultural training programs and cultural dining experiences which showcase “every part of Tasmanian Aboriginal culture”.

Mansell also said there are plans on the horizon for getting a restaurant as the business grows.

Learn more about Palawa Kipli and their services here.

By Grace Crivellaro