Diggings 30 March 2022

Pic: Paul van Reyk

A bumper edition starting off with more on Indigenous water sovereignty and the exclusions of Indigenous voices from discussions on climate change amelioration; a delightful article by Jacqui Newling on coming to literal grips with discomforting food; more on the appalling conditions in aged care; perspectives on food scarcity and more.

Indigenous fight for ‘water justice’ intensifies as Victoria hands back Murray-Darling entitlement

For Brendan Kennedy, a Tati Tati traditional owner, the crimes of colonisation are not historical: “Our water is being stolen off us every moment of every day.”

“We are river people, we are water people,” he says. “Taking our water away from us depletes us. We can’t survive without it.”…


Terra nullius has been overturned. Now we must reverse aqua nullius and return water rights to First Nations people

Four years ago, the federal government announced A$40 million to buy water rights for Traditional Owners in the Murray-Darling Basin. Not a dollar has been spent. In New South Wales, unused water rights across 55 different sources have recently been listed for sale. Not one of these was returned to Traditional Owners. In the Northern Territory, delays in water allocation planning processes continue to limit access to the Aboriginal Water Reserve – the policy that is supposed to provide Aboriginal people in the NT access to water resources and opportunities for economic development. New laws could make this problem even worse.


Indigenous peoples across the globe are uniquely equipped to deal with the climate crisis – so why are we being left out of these conversations?

‘We must elevate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices within climate change action and centre Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as leaders in protecting Country. In the words of Seed Mob, “We cannot have climate justice without First Nations justice.”


Remaking history: cooking slippery, slimy and oozy historical recipes made me uncomfortably conscious of my own anatomy

Other dishes which were once common in old cookbooks are curious or even peculiar to the contemporary cook, especially those made with meat cuts that some Australians might balk at: mock turtle soup (made with a calf’s head), brawn (made from a pigs’ head), calves’ feet jelly and boiled tongues being standouts. As a historian with a Le Cordon Bleu Master’s degree in gastronomy, (which I describe as the study of food and food cultures), I am an intrigued by foods such as these. They are still popular in many other cultures’ cuisines, but have lost their place in Australia’s everyday culinary repertoire.


‘Disgusting’ food served to aged care residents despite $460 million handout

The federal government does not know how much of almost half-a-billion dollars it paid aged care providers to improve nutrition was spent on meals, as families report residents are still being served “disgusting” food.


Ultra-processed foods are trashing our health – and the planet

To counter this, food production resources across the world could be re-routed into producing healthier, less processed foods. For example, globally, significant quantities of cereals such as wheat, maize and rice are milled into refined flours to produce refined breads, cakes, donuts and other bakery products. These could be rerouted into producing more nutritious foods such as wholemeal bread or pasta. This would contribute to improving global food security and also provide more buffer against natural disasters and conflicts in major breadbasket areas.


We can’t keep relying on charities and the food industry to supply food after disasters – the government must lead

At present, our governments largely rely on the food industry to ensure our supply chains are resilient to these threats. Governments also rely on charities to feed people who are going hungry after disasters. As climate threats intensify, these responses are not enough. We need government to take the lead.


The Farm to Fork Strategy is the Future of the EU Food System

The organizations call for policies that “on the one hand, foster a reduction in the production of animals farmed industrially towards small scale extensive and animal welfare-friendly practices, through a just transition respectful of the right to farmers to have a fair income and, on the other hand, promote healthier and more plant-based diets.” This much needed transformation can only happen if the EU implements the EU Farm to Fork Strategy, to preserve its natural environment and the health of its citizens. Global food systems will continue to be afflicted by crises and uncertainties over the coming years and decades. By acting responsibly now, we will ensure that Europe is well-placed to face possible future crises.


Employers signed up for agriculture visa scheme previously fined, suspended for exploitation

But Agri Labour paid large settlements to a group of workers from Vanuatu after the workers said in 2018 they were paid as little as $8 an hour and suffered nose and ear bleeds from exposure to chemicals at a tomato farm. The Brisbane-based company was subsequently suspended by the federal government from importing workers under a seasonal labour program.

In 2017, the owner of Sim Fresh, Giuseppe Simonetta, was convicted and fined $100,000 in the County Court for using illegal labour at his Victorian farm. MADEC, meanwhile, had previously pressured farmworkers to quit a union.


‘Easiest thing to help the planet’: How grocery startups are tackling food waste

Choi is one of an ever-increasing group of Australians who are switching to home-delivered farmer-friendly groceries. The pandemic kickstarted a national trend towards increased grocery delivery, for convenience and safety. But a variety of Australian startups are connecting customers and farms directly – removing the middleman and eliminating food waste in the process. Significant waste happens at various points in the food chain, and it accounts for about 3 per cent of Australia’s annual greenhouse gas emissions. It happens in the ground, with inefficient harvesting practices or oversupply; in the grocery sector, when “imperfect” produce doesn’t make the cut, or is lost in transportation; and in consumers’ kitchens.


The Educator Stockpiling  – and Sharing – Turkey’s Heritage Seeds

‘The status of heritage seeds became more complicated in 2006, when Turkey made it illegal to sell unregulated seeds, to bring agriculture in line with EU regulatory norms that restrict unregulated seeds. This was designed to promote industrial seeds over the heirloom and heritage seeds that Kuşçu championed. However, the law didn’t slow down Kuşçu. “We are bypassing this law by giving presents,” she says.’


The hidden lives of New Zealand’s’ ‘take out’ kids

“Work for me at a young age, it was my getaway. And I can kind of see it starting to kick in with Rama – because you can be who you want to be here at Petra, as a waiter or as a cook. No one can judge you, you can just be proud of what your parents have done. And because we help out, we’re like, oh, we made this: I made this, and mum made this, and dad made this.”


Meet the ‘vegan bros’ here to bust the myth that real men eat meat

Over the past five years, “soy boy” has become a favourite insult of the far right online, used to refer not only to vegans but to all liberals. (I noticed the rise of this slur with amusement, as when I met my first ever male vegetarian friend, Lee, at university, we proudly called ourselves “the soy boys”.)


It may not be cute, but here’s why the humble yabby deserves your love

And although the humble yabby is not as cute and cuddly as some better-known Australian icons, from an ecosystem perspective, we argue they may be more important. Yabbies are a staple food for platypus, many waterbird species, and fish such as Murray cod and golden perch. And yabbies’ diet is largely made up of algae, detritus (dead organic material) and small animals. This means they link energy from the very bottom of the food chain to apex predators at the top.


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