Connecting Food to Country
LISTEN TO SHARON'S SONGLINE:
Connecting Food to Country
It was an unusually windy and grey day in late November, at a back beach in Rye on the Mornington Peninsula. This is where we met Sharon. We had asked Sharon to collaborate with us months before as frantic planning and production for Our Dilly Bag was underway. Except for this time we bombarded her a week prior, inviting her to be part of our content vision. We wanted her stories. Her brain. So we could put them in a jar and preserve the magic forever.
When she arrived at the beach she had a strong presence, but with an ease. It would be hard to miss her energy in a room. She was bubbly and reverted to giggling in the first few minutes. She also bore homemade vegetarian sandwiches and treats under one arm, so it was hard not to feel the warmth from her instantly. It is true, as she will go onto explain, the way to many people is through their stomachs. But Sharon will explain not in the ‘conventional’ way, in which we have come to believe in the Australian food industry. Sharon’s story both educates you on the plethora of underutilised and untapped potential of native foods within Australia, and also teaches about connection to country and keeping the spirit of your family with you, always.
We hope you enjoy Sharon’s songlines as much as we did hearing it.
My name's Sharon Brindley. I'm a Yamatji/Noongar woman, which is from Geraldtown down through to Perth in Western Australia. I haven't been out on my country for many years. Which is really sad. We were supposed to go over this year, but corona stopped that.
We're having a big family reunion on my country next year. My Nana and my mom have both passed away, so it'll be really special to go out there. It’ll be at Leonora, which is in Kalgoorlie, out on the red earth. It will be amazing to spend some quality time over there with family. Take some of my products over and share with the Yamaji mob, then head down into Noongar country.
When we were little we used to always go out in the bush with Nan. I remember going out with my Nan and aunties to learn how to find bardi grubs. That was always fun. My first time ever going out in the bush with my Uncle Ron, he was prospecting for goanna and I was just hanging out. There are no big trees in Leonora, there are just bushes and I had to go to the toilet. So I went behind a bush and heard a noise. I turned around and I was actually on a goanna nest, and the goanna started chasing me. I ran to the car screaming my lungs out. My uncle was just laughing his head off. I ran all the way up to the car, jumped in, and wound the window up. It jumped up onto the car window and started hissing at me and I couldn’t stop screaming.
My uncle saved that day and we actually ended up eating it that night. It was the best goanna I've ever eaten in my life and it chased me!
I like to describe my country and family regarding to strength, but also through the insecurities as well. There is a lot of shyness, but you have to be strong for the ones that have passed. Like I must be strong for my nana and my mum. They’re not here to speak anymore.
I see all the different traumas and issues and how people are always saying ‘get over it.’ But you see it’s embedded in and it’s like an on-flow through the family. I always see my aunty, who is an amazing artist, she’s brilliant. But she won’t push her artwork forward, because she comes from a time where she was constantly bullied and harassed for being fair-skinned Indigenous. It causes a lot of issues and you can feel the angst. But it does make me stronger and more proud to announce and showcase my culture, to the best of my knowledge, and in the best way I can. To be able to speak for them, well, it is scary, and I don’t know enough, but I am learning as I go. I am meeting so many people on this journey, that all have amazing stories to tell about their mother or grandmother or their history.
It does sadden me that there is so much hurt and I want to try in my way, highlight the good. And so in highlighting the good, I do that through food. My nan always did it through food as well, so I learned from her. I think food is the way to everybody, it solves so many problems and it's so simple, but it can help change things. I want people when they come to Australia to try our food, I want them to try our native products. I want them to try our meats. I want them to see what food we're actually all about.
When you feed people, you make them happy. When I have different people try my food, nothing makes me more proud.
One of my favourite foods is wattle seeds. The smell takes me back to childhood. I love when I prepare it for people and they are like ‘wooooo’ because of the strong smell. But then they eat it and I watch their faces in total wonder and they love it. It makes me glow, it makes my insides shine. I am so proud because I can see that they love it. Getting people to taste the delicious flavours and teaching about all the benefits.
You know, everyone knows Australia for freakin’ lamingtons and things that we stole from other countries anyway. I don’t want Australia to be known for that. I want Australia to be known for the amazing flavours that we have from our country. There are different flavours in each different state. You can travel around Australia and taste all different, beautiful flavours. Now we're starting to share between states and bringing all the native flavours together, I can create things from places all over Australia. I can now get Davidson Plums from Queensland delivered in Victoria and create some amazing chocolates using all native ingredients. You shouldn’t plant things not from your country. So I am trying to still be true and let things grow where they're meant to be grown.
But that’s how I connect. It’s the only way I truly know how to connect.
Bringing together my country and our food and sharing it with the world.
Sharon owns a Cooee Cafe on the Mornington Peninsula and through this has created another business called “Jala Jala” Indigenous chocolates. Which is the only product of its kind within Victoria. In Wajarri language Jala Jala means ‘very good’ and the sweets live up to expectation.
The family business is proudly 100% Indigenous owned and is the platform to showcase to the world the incredible flavours of our Indigenous native plants and their wonderful health benefits.
Our Dilly Bag is committed to achieving an increase in appreciation and understanding of indigenous culture for all of Australia, and the world.
The portraiture photography that you find throughout the Our Dilly Bag website is shot on a 120mm medium format film camera, by contemporary artist and photo journalist, Gabeya. Gabeya has spent his career documenting Indigenous cultures around the world and currently resides in Melbourne, where he is testing his storytelling abilities.
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