By Teresa Petzel
Woorabinda Aboriginal Council is in the discovery stages of a new agricultural project that is set to drive financial sustainability and increased social wellbeing in the community.
The project explores large-scale production of wattleseed for harvesting and sale to mining companies for use in land rehabilitation. Woorabinda has been one of many Indigenous communities that felt the very real pinch of lockdown during 2020. With no local industry established, many locals were pushed to leave, not knowing when they might return. It was a situation that motivated Mayor Josh Weazel to investigate options for industry and employment for the community. Councillor Weazel said the pandemic brought the community’s economic vulnerabilities to the fore. “Creating industry would allow us to keep alive and keep productive … to carry on with normal, everyday life,” he said. “A job means people have a more meaningful life, and they feel like they are contributing to their community in the best way.” With a 70 per cent increase in demand for wattleseed products in the past five years*, future opportunity for the community to create its own processing and supply industry is a real possibility. Wattleseed flour can sell for up to $150 a kilogram, which means tapping into the flourishing bush food market creates optimistic potential for longer term economic and
The trial plantation is expected to support two full-time jobs, and every additional five hectares to support up to eight more jobs.
An initial feasibility study has indicated that only one hectare of plantation is required for the project to be financially viable. The first stage of the proposed project is a 2.5-hectare plantation; and future planned five hectare plantation is slated to generate returns for reinvestment back into the community through project extensions and additional native food and plant projects. The trial plantation is expected to support two full-time jobs, and every additional five hectares to support up to eight more jobs. Current Mayor Joshua Weazel and former Mayor Steve Kemp are leading the project and see it providing a positive environment for younger generations to learn job-ready skills including germinating seeds, planting and harvesting. The opportunity for embedding sustainable land use and caring for land, along with local employment and financial sustainability, would be an important step towards cultural education and selfdetermination for the community. “Given our rural remoteness, it [the project] highlights and capitalises on our assets that are around us and that’s our wattle trees, native shrubs and trees,” Cr Weazel said. This story is adapted from ABC Capricornia: by Jacob McGuire and Jasmine Hines, ‘Woorabinda locals grow wattle seeds and bush flour, boosting self-determination’. Saturday, February 13, 2021.
Make your own wattleseed chocolate cookies
1. Cover 1/4 cup ground wattleseed with hot water and leave to soak for 5 minutes.
2. Cream 100gm butter and a cup of sugar. Add 1 egg and mix well. Blend in the soaked wattleseed, 1 cup plain flour, 3/4 cup cocoa, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1 tspn wattleseed extract. Fold in 100g chocolate chips.
3. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Place tablespoon-sized balls of cookie mix, evenly spaced, on the baking tray. Flatten slightly.
4. Place in 180C oven for 8-10 minutes. This is a recipe from Native Tastes of Australia—go to tasteaustralia.biz to find more.
*Australian Native Food and Botanicals
• Wattleseed, leaves or timber of over one hundred acacia species have been used by Indigenous Australians for thousands of years as food, medicine or materials for tools and weapons.
• Harvested wattleseed is often roasted before use and it has a strong nutty and/or coffee flavour, with a slight bitterness.
• Wattleseed is an excellent ingredient in cakes, biscuits, breads and damper; it can be used as flavour and thickener in casseroles and curries; it is used in sauces, marinades and dukkas; and in fine chocolate and ice-cream. The liquid essence can be extracted and is used in a range of products including a wattleseed balsamic vinegar and beer. Wattleseed has also been used to make caffeine-free ‘coffee’.
• Nutritional analysis has shown that wattleseed contains potassium, calcium, iron and zinc in comparatively high concentrations and is a good source of energy— averaging about 1500 kilojoules per 100g.
• It has a low glycaemic index, because its carbohydrate is starch-based rather than sugar-based, so it has potential application for food for diabetics.
• Wattleseed is gluten free.
• Wattleseed is able to be stored for up to 10 years without loss of quality and nutritional value, which enables the highs and lows of production to be evened out.
• Many Australians have probably sampled this modest native seed without realising it—Australia’s nationalairline has been serving up wattleseed Anzac biscuits for close to a decade.