Patricia (Pat) Mamanyjun Torres is the Director of Mayi Harvests, a sustainable, Indigenous Australian owned and operated agribusiness that wild harvests Australian Native Foods in the Kimberley to produce wellness products and gifts. Mayi Harvests range includes ‘Gabiny’ Kakadu Plum, Lemon Myrtle, Native Lemon Grass, Boab fruit, Native Peach ‘Quandong’, Sea Blite, and Native Wattle Seeds.
Following Pat’s family’s traditional methods of of wild harvesting throughout the six seasons found in the Kimberley of Western Australia Mayi Harvests produce freshly frozen and dried native foods and supply them across Australia as ingredients for food, drinks and cosmetics.
Preserving traditional land management practices informed by Kimberley Indigenous knowledge systems handed down over generations, and teaching others about their cultural knowledge, ensures a sustainable future for Mayi Harvests community and business, with respect for land and people at the heart of everything they do.
Pat is also a Director of First Nations Bushfood & Botanicals Alliance Australia and a Director of Milari Community Corporation.
What are the challenges you have faced as an Ancient Foods Indigenous business owner in a remote area?
Remoteness creates specific challenges for any food business. The cost of transportation is usually high. The lack of infrastructure to conduct HACCP certification to send goods overseas and the lack of options for printing and packaging in our local region are some of these challenges. There are several more which requires in depth studies to gather real data as evidence to substantiate funding and industry requirements for business success.
What are the benefits of being involved in this industry?
The biggest benefit of being involved in agribusiness and Australia’s sovereign foods is that by conducting business within an area that is not only part of our First Nations heritage which for many of us is a ‘strength-based’ skill set, but, I also get to preserve the ancient knowledge and practices including First Nation language and cultural knowledge systems found within the ancient food system and our unique relationship with the lands on which we live and work.
What is the best practice collaborative and sustainable model for building the Ancient Foods industry?
The best practice model involves it being an Indigenous-led industry with respectful collaborative relationships with other Australians who acknowledge the effects of the past negative history of displacement and exclusions that have occurred, which has placed the First Nation businesses in an inequitable position in Australian society due to colonial frameworks and practices that disadvantage First Nation people and their businesses.
What this means is that First Nation businesses require special consideration to address the inequality that has occurred due to Australia’s policies and practices of the past. Concepts such as provenance, geographical indicators for specific species and language diversity needs to be respected and considered in branding and the point of difference for each regions story for their species. Wild harvest products have a different and higher value to plantation grown products and the industry requires levels of investment that considers the above.
How do you facilitate change so that diversity is respected?
First Nation communities and its ancient systems already acknowledges the importance of diversity through the kinship systems, language diversity and respect for differences amongst people-our systems are inclusive. Those communities impacted negatively due to Australia’s colonising past require a full understanding in how it has affected them. This includes Australia’s First Peoples and those who came to live in Australia from other countries during colonisation.
However, it is the mainstream systems, industry and government that need to be re-educated and to receive cross-cultural competence training to understand the true histories of Australia’s treatment of Australia’s First Peoples. It is the continuing effects of negative viewpoints, attitudes of privilege and restrictive policies and practices put upon First Nation businesses that needs to be acknowledged and changed so that we can also enjoy the rights and benefits of being Australian citizens.
Change needs to come from within each individual person who needs to acknowledge that they live in systems of dominance and privilege within the mainstream structures of our society, and must work actively to bring about change for the betterment of all humans within the nation and society for equity to be enjoyed.
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