The Bush Tucker Survival Guide

thanks to Emma White

This page is taken from a booklet written by Gemma White in 2008 on Australian bush tucker survival foods that are found in the Mitchell Park (Cattai) region of sydney.


Aboriginal people have found ways of surviving that reveal an extensive and detailed knowledge of the environment Their understanding of native plants goes far beyond just knowing what is edible. They used plants for healing and medicine. They understood the changes of the seasons and the life cycles of animals and plants, and how these processes effected their own survival .

The Australian bush contains a bounty of wild edible plant species that runs into the thousands, ranging from starchy seeds and tangy fruits to mushrooms, tubers, leaves and seaweeds. However, knowing how to identify edible plants is not easy. The knowledge Aboriginal people have about which plants are edible, which plants are poisonous, and which plants are poisonous but can be prepared in certain ways that make then safe to eat would have been acquired over generations (6,000 years) of trial and error.

To the Aborigines, plant foods supplied up to 80% of their diet in desert regions, and as little as 40% in coastal areas, where shellfish, fish and game were abundant  Diets and food preparation techniques varied from one region to another and also from one tribe to another. Local custom and belief often effected what was hunted and gathered (i.e. would not eat totemic animals).

It has been suggested that Aborigines were originally a relatively healthy people before the arrival of Europeans (brought infectious diseases) and thus needed little medication.

Occasional digestive upsets (causing diarrhoea), fevers, toothaches, xand sores, colds, rheumatism and wounds were all adequately treated with a large variety of herbal remedies Most bush medicines were applied, as rubs or poultices; or inhaled, for example by using crushed aromatic leaves

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