The Wadeye Community Initiative

13/05/2016

It’ll take almost five hours to get to Wadeye from Darwin by car, driving some 400 kilometres down Route 28 through Adelaide River, and around the perimeter of Litchfield National Park. During the wet season, roads are cut, and the town is almost completely surrounded by water. The only way in is by light plane or barge.

Wadeye is remote – about as remote as you can get – but it’s thriving. It’s the largest Indigenous community in the Northern Territory, and since 1990, has been home to the Palngun Wurnangat Aboriginal Corporation (PWAC). Palngun Wurnangat means ‘women all together’ in Murrinhpatha, the predominant shared language of this region.

One of the PWAC’s first points of business was to open a takeaway shop for the community, so people could come together for a cuppa, a piece of a cake, and a chat. They also established an artist’s hub, where local women could paint, sew, and print fabrics. And more recently, the committee overseeing the PWAC has employed a group of local women to pick Kakadu plums.

The Kakadu plum – also known as billygoat plum or gubinge – is exceptionally high in vitamin C; it has more vitamin C than any food in the world, and around 13 times the antioxidant activity of blueberries. The sour fruits – best eaten when they’ve just fallen from the tree – have been used by Indigenous Australians for thousands of years for both food and medicine. Kakadu plum is said to provide relief from headaches, while the red bark from the trees is used to treat sores on the skin.

This initiative has done wonders for the community. For one thing, it’s increased employment and provided much-needed income for women. It’s given the women a sense of purpose. And after the rainy season, when the fruit flourishes, it’s a time for these women – often as many as 300 – to come together, talk, educate and learn.

Before the pickers head out onto Country, the PWAC provides specialised training; it’s essential that the women have permission from Traditional Owners to pick on Country if the land is not their own. They’re taught about the trees, and where to get the best fruit. And the PWAC will only purchase fruit from women who have done the training, and fully understand the importance of looking after Country, and looking after the trees.

The Australian Superfood Co has been working with the Wadeye community since 2015, purchasing Kakadu plums to use in granolas, powders and extracts. Hayley Blieden, founder of the Australian Superfood Co, is thrilled to contribute to the development and economic stability of this community.

*A promotional video produced by Hand Cut Productions during our visit to the Wadeye community in the Northern Territory.

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