The aboriginal people of Australia are considered the world’s oldest civilization. There are more than 250 distinct aboriginal groupings, each with its own language, unique customs and traditions. Suzanne Thompson, of the Iningai people, is a self-described rainmaker and ancestral whisperer.
Today, she shares stories of her people, her growth in accepting her own cultural identity, and the importance of preserving indigenous wisdom. Suzanne is the chair of the Australian Native Food and Botanicals. She has a passion to create opportunities for partnerships between indigenous and non-indigenous cultures.
Listen to the episode here:
Within the below transcript the bolded text is Hilda
The Aboriginal people of Australia are considered the world’s oldest civilization. There are more than 250 distinct Aboriginal groupings each with its own language, unique customs and traditions. This is episode 278. We speak with Suzanne Thompson of the Iningai people. Suzanne is the Chair of the Australian Native Food and Botanicals group. She was born and raised in Barcaldine and her custodial connection to the country has been continuous and carries on the work of her father, the late David Thompson, great-grandparents David and Clara, and all of whom had traditional custodial links to the lands of the Kunngeri/Iningai & Bidjera peoples.
Suzanne has returned to the country after two decades of working in the areas of youth and policy development, community development and as an indigenous business advisor. She owns and manages her own gallery and also runs with her husband a very successful wood-fired pizza business called The Lounging Emu in Barcaldine. Suzanne sees these enterprises as a key opportunity to share the stories of our ancestral knowledge and practices with the tourists and locals. In this episode, she actually does just that with us. She brings her stories, discusses literally her dreams, and shares her belief system and passion. This podcast is called Wise Traditions after all. We highlight, in particular, the traditions from Australia and its first nation people.
Suzanne tells us of how the first nation people in Australia were cut off, much like the native Americans in the US. She talks about her own personal process of embracing cultural identity and how we can all heal the land through observing traditions long forgotten. This might be one of the most unusual podcast episodes we’ve published because something really surprising happened during the interview that caught both Suzanne and I off guard. Read closely, and you’ll learn what I mean, but what happened also gave us the feeling that this story needed to be told.
Welcome to the show, Suzanne.
Hilda, how are you?
I’m doing well. I cannot believe I am here at Gracevale Station. This is a land that once belonged to your ancestors.
It belonged to my people for tens of thousands of years out here in Outback Central Queensland. At one point, we would have been the coastal people of the ancient inland sea. Especially the property where we’re sitting as Gracevale Station, houses one of the most significant cultural heritage sites ever known to man, and also the Seven Springs that sit on this property as well.
For those who are unfamiliar with the Aboriginal culture, talk to us about how it’s the longest standing race or culture on the face of the earth. Why do people believe that it’s that?
A lot of people have been doing research over many hundreds of years researching Aboriginal people when the land and everything was connected, Africa and Australia. They’re saying that we migrated across and things, but there’s more evidence now showing that we existed here and things moved out from this. We know as Aboriginal people that we’re here for many millenia and at the beginning of the dream time. When we talk about the beginning of the dream time, it’s the beginning of the creation of the land. I often say to people, especially in what we’re about to research and to share with the world over the next coming years is the site that we have here.
How old this site is and the potential that there is a Plesiosaurus which was an underwater dinosaur that existed. We know dinosaurs existed a million years ago or more. We talk about the Megafauna period. I often say to people, “We had big lizards cruising around this land. We had to have big snakes.” When you hear the story that Aboriginal people talk about in the dream time about the rainbow serpent, and how he created the land by creating and moving through the country, creating the waterways, and our rivers, and then it goes underground and that created the springs. It was pushing up the water from the artesian basin. As he’d come down and then it is coiled and curled himself up, that created these mountain ranges, ridges and stuff.
For us, somebody had to have been alive those millions of years ago to observe that. When we bring it into our thinking, that’s our dreaming. That’s our dream time because it’s the story over the many thousands of generations that was passed down of this is how our land was created. When we think about the creator beings right across the world, we all have those similar stories of those things and they are not fairy tales. There is a lot of truth to those things. It’s in our modern thinking that we can’t fathom that.
Speaking of that, it makes me happy to hear that you know the story. Haven’t the Aboriginal people been cut off from their traditions and their stories?
Our story is very similar to the First Nations people of America. For a lot of different traditional cultures around the world, we all have similar stories. For us, 230 years ago is still very recent compared to America’s story from that colonization when it came to the landing of the First Fleet and Captain Cook putting his flag in and him claiming terra nullius. Terra nullius means land of no inhabitants. It’s even interesting because if you look up what the word Australia means, Australias terra nullius means a land of no people.
I thought I’d do this research because in Australia, our leaders and a huge collectives right across Australia had regional dialogues and created this thing called the Uluru Statement from the Heart that had three very unique pillars. It was a voice, truth-telling and also a Makarrata treaty-making mechanism. The Australian Constitution was formed in 1901. Right up until 1967, we were seen to be less than the Flora and Fauna Act, so less than animals and plants. This is the truth. That’s what we as Aboriginal people are fighting for. When the settlers came through, it was free for all. It was about the dispossession of my people, bringing disease, apartheid and wiping us out.
There were massacres of thousands of Aboriginal people.
Five to ten minutes down the road from where we are is a massive massacre site called Mailman’s Gorge that there were anywhere between 80 and 200 people that were rounded up, brought into a cave, shot dead and left. We have many of these stories. There are hundreds upon hundreds of massacre sites and untold stories. For us, it’s one of those disturbing things because we are such a peaceful people. We believed in ceremony and the moving on of our ancestral spirits. Those ceremonies were important for that. We have so much unfinished business because all of these fallen soldiers of ours, these lost beautiful souls haven’t been passed on and haven’t had a ceremony, and being sent into our world where our ancestors sit. All that world to be able to return back to the land, whether it’s through the animals’ reincarnation but coming back into what our loyalties or our totems were so it sustained our country.
Are you saying that because these people were massacred without ceremony, without the proper dignity of natural death, they’re in a no man’s land?
Yes. It’s quite interesting because I often have people from doing a talk or having hosted a market store or something, people come in and they’ll say, “I’m so glad you’re here. I need you to explain to me. I bought this piece of land and it’s at the base of this particular mountain.” I go, “What’s the name of the mountain?” They go, “On Mountain Ninderry,” or “I live near Murdering Creek.” I’ll go, “Think of this. This of the name of these places. Mountain Ninderry was our rainmaker on the Sunshine Coast. The story of that is all of those people were rounded up to the top of the mountain and thrown off the edge of the cliff, children, babies, fathers, families, you name it.
I said, “What are you hearing?” They said, “We’re hearing babies crying and women screaming all the time. We’re not spiritual people. We don’t know what’s going on,” or “We’ve got a nursery. Our businesses keep failing. Our plants aren’t surviving.” I said, “There’s a trauma that’s happened in that land. There are these lost souls that are roaming around that haven’t been given this opportunity. That’s part of the truth-telling of this country.” A lot of people have a real clear understanding. It’s about collectively together, indigenous and non-indigenous, standing united and finishing off this unfinished business. Perhaps as a country, we can learn to walk and heal together because we’ve faced the truth of what’s happened. It’s the very rule for Aboriginal people.
I can understand why. I’m speechless thinking about it. When you said healing the land and walking together, part of your mission is doing that. Our audiences are interested in what it takes to regenerate soil is what we think about a lot. What you’re doing here at Gracevale Station, you’re doing many bits and pieces of healing. Can you describe the situation of the land? How you came to be a custodian of it and what some of your dreams are for its future?
From that moment of massacre and the dispossession of my people, that’s more likely going back to between 1875 to 1891. When the government, the protector of Aboriginal or whomever it was handing out, it was almost like a raffle syndicate, “Here you go, this is your parcel of land.” Off you go and if the natives were there then you had permission to get rid of them. Gracevale was one of those parcels of land in particular with their sacred sites. When I think about that length of time that my family and my ancestors knew, they would be patient because one day it’s coming.
We’re in a big drought here and have been for some years. Firstly, you come along and then you go, “We’re going to put and run cattle. We’re going to run sheep.” This country Australia has only ever known soft-hoofed animals, not hard-hoofed animals. Therefore, the soil types, the land terrain, and those sorts of things have been disrupted. When you think of erosion and all sorts of things in the lack of water resource management and there’s a whole lot of other things. With Gracevale and being in such drought and overstock, the landholder then went, “We can’t be here.” There’s a bit more to it though because if I think back from when I was a little girl, I was brought out here and understanding this place.
We’re sitting here in the kitchen and we just finished eating. This flame completely extinguished on this candle and as Suzanne was talking, it has become relit. You’re doing something significant.
I must be. I think for all of us, no matter who you are as a human being on this planet, we all have tribal connections to ancient people. I’m lucky. I live in my country. My people are the oldest and that’s one of my bloodlines. I have many bloodlines that run through me.
It’s a beautiful thing. You were saying that as a child, you came to this land. You came to this area.
We used to come out and visit the site and then my dad left. He went away for 25 years.
Were you trying to have a normal life?
Absolutely. Sometimes, one of the things that’s difficult is when you’re growing up in the world and in a society where you’re told that being Aboriginal isn’t the right thing to do because you’re not going to be accepted in the world. A friend of mine had said to me a few years back, “Remember when we were in grade six?” That would have been roughly around when I was eleven. He said, “Remember we’re going on the school camp and we’re on the train. You were telling us all that you had to say that you were an African-American.” That’s one of my bloodlines. I said, “I remember, because if you said you were an Aboriginal then you wouldn’t be accepted and you wouldn’t get in any way.” I could be any other color race in the world but not Aboriginal because of how we were seen in this place here in Australia.
You were so conscious of that as a child that you were telling your friends that you were going to say you were African-American.
For me, it was like, “I need to make a change with this.” I remembered when I did my hairdressing apprenticeship. I first signed up to do my hairdressing apprenticeship when I was fifteen. The Australian Hairdressing Federation did not want to sign my apprenticeship indentures because I was Aboriginal and they weren’t ready to accept Aboriginal hairdressers. I’m going, “What’s an Aboriginal hairdresser?” They say, “It’s something different.” From that point, I thought, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
I was determined at the age of seventeen and my uncle had $20,000 he wanted to give me because he heard my pain. He said, “I’m going to give you $20,000. We’re going to work on this. You’re going to learn about business. You’re going to go out and you’re going to set up your own first Aboriginal Black Hairdressing Academy. You’re going to take over this space.” I thought, “That’s what I’ve got to do.” That started to form all of those things because you can go through your life until you get to a point when you become a young adult where your parents protect you from certain things, then when you start to step into that space, the real world starts to hit you.
That then I suppose for me was because I felt safe growing up thinking we all grew up the same. There was no color. For me then, I left because it was about conquering the world as a hairdresser. I was off to London, to the Vidal Sassoon School. I remembered I got accepted to go over to the Northwest University in Chicago when I was 20 or 21 to learn about hair sculpting, especially Afro hair sculpting because my mom’s father is an African. We all had curly hair and nobody could teach us how to cut curly hair because it’s a real special craft to be able to cut curly hair. Most hairs are long and straight or waves and stuff.
I got accepted so I was going to go, but then I got pregnant with my oldest son. That’s when I started to learn my ancestors must have things for me installed so I stayed. I was disappointed because I was looking forward to go off to London. The Vidal Sassoon School was the ultimate school to go into because that meant that I was going to be the Aboriginal Vidal Sassoon in Australia, set up my hairdressing academy. Off I went to do that. I did many things in government. There were many other things. I remember also living up on the Sunshine Coast. I was living up in this beautiful place at Maleny-Mapleton. We had views over the ocean and stuff. It was a beautiful home. I was working for myself and doing my own consultancy work. The owner of the house, when he discovered I was Aboriginal, he started to create havoc for me and my partner who was English, and my son, Jovan. It was such a hostile time but we continually confronted it.
We went away for a holiday. We come back from the car. It must have been about 2:00 in the morning. I went and put the key in the door to unlock the door and it didn’t work. I went, “We’ve got the right key.” We shined the light inside them where there was nothing left. It was bare. The property owner had taken all of our stuff out, put it in storage and held it to ransom on us. I was like, “Are you kidding me? What, I’m black?” I went through my life believing there was no color. I’d left the safe space of my home. I went to the big smoke and then all of a sudden, I become this minority. From that point again, another important pivotal point where I spun myself back around 360 degrees, face back at the world and forth, never ever again am I ever going to be judged in such a way or allow my people to be judged this way because I’m a proud Aboriginal woman. I’m proud to be Australian.
That was my journey. I did government jobs and a few other things. I got older and since I hit becoming 40. There are also parts of our lives where we go through and our voice isn’t heard, but we have this knowledge and wisdom that children wouldn’t be seen and heard. We have orders of all the aunties or mothers that you sit quietly. I remember, I was 23 and I knew everything. My mother is going, “Oh my gosh.” She then gave me this book to read Women Who Run With The Wolves. There’s a story in there about the woman with the red shoes.
She wanted these red shoes right or wrong. All people kept saying to her, “Why do you want that? You don’t need those red shoes. You’re good at what you’re doing. Stay on what you’re doing.” She wanted those red shoes. She was like me. I wanted all of these things. She went off, snuck and bought these red shoes. She put them on her feet while she danced in the rouge. She continually danced and she couldn’t stop. Even when she sleeps, her feet keep moving and dancing. She kept asking, “Can I take them away?” The red shoes have grabbed ahold of them. The only way for her to get rid of them was to cut her feet off.
When you look at things like that, you think it’s about slowing down and listening to all of those things. As I slowly started to become more humble and more focused, I also started to strengthen myself and start embracing my cultural identity. In our culture, you get to a certain age where your parents are not your disciplinary people. They are not your teachers. They are just your nurturers. They are your mother and father. You’re handed over to your auntie and uncles because they’re the ones that have been placed with that teaching authority to teach you everything that you should know particularly culture.
My mom handed me over to them. They started to grow me up and strengthened me culturally as a woman, teaching me about my voice, teaching me how to pace myself because I listened to them. You don’t listen to your parents, because what would they know? I remembered there was another turning point because my mom, my aunties and I used to run these women’s camps. I was established to start to grow to become the healer and the knowledge holder that I’ve become now. Each time we had a camp, I stepped up in my role but I also then started to more step up because as my mother got older, I needed to start to step in to care for her and to make sure her space, she was the elder now and then where I sat. Mom still struggled with giving me my voice and wisdom. She would wrestle me in front of everybody.
My aunties said to her and put her in a place that day. She said, “Jennifer, she is a grown woman. You have given her to us. Leave her alone. She sits equal now.” From that point on, my mom and I become best friends. We share like sisters. My granddaughter calls my mother daughter and my mother calls Ava, my granddaughter, Nana. We get to a certain point where that order of things shift and change. That’s how we cared for each other within our family unit and maintain that because as a great grandmother gets older, she does become that daughter that needs to be cared for. The young and coming up, that’s her job to care for her. It’s so beautiful.
It came and when it was time, I remembered the dreams and things that came into my dream, into my headspace. I’d gone back to my mom’s country because it was important that I stepped in to learn and to be a part of my mom’s ancestral country. She spent 38 years out here in Barcaldine on my birth country and my father’s country. Culturally, it was right for me to do this for my mother. My father wanted my mother to do this before he passed. There was eleven years difference between them, and strengthen her and stuff. I’d started to go through this process but when these dreams and things started to happen, it becomes more evident.
I started to have these daydreams. Sometimes, you get those day stares. What I would see is the spring, this water place, dragonflies, lilies and things. I started to see this red dust and feet dusting and dancing. I started to feel my hair being pulled. It was getting braided and dreaded. As each day stare came and stuff, it became more clear. There were these women around and these young women, and they were nurturing my hair and plaiting it. It was this whole preparation. It went on for a while. I sat with that for a while. That’s when I ended up going out to do women’s ceremony out in Central Australia and sitting there. That was my point of validation. I sat down with the aunties. They are the top law women. These traditional mobs that still live in Central Australia are still so close and still practice ancient culture. There hasn’t been too much of a Western twist and abandonment or stripping of our belief systems.
When I was calling them auntie, they said, “We’re not auntie. You’re sister. You’re the same as us. You sit here the same as us.” My knowledge and their knowledge was the same. As much as I thought, I didn’t have my cultural knowledge because I grew up in a mainstream town. The things that I was taught by my aunties, uncles, my mother, father and my grandparents were still very cultural but it was the balance of the two worlds. These dreams started to come in and knocking out my bottom teeth. When you get your bottom teeth knocked out, it means you’ve been initiated to a very high level.
That happened in your dream.
Yes. That’s chosen because we’re all born for things. What had happened was that they tattooed these eyes on my eyelids and these patterns on my face, and it was red, white and green. I was excited. I thought, “This is cool.” I said to my mother and I had seen her, “Mom.” My mom went, “Suzanne, what have you done?” I said, “It’s cool. Look at the eyelids.” She said, “You’ve got to get that off your face. It’s permanent. Are you looking at me or not?” I said, “No, mom, it’s cool. I wear them whether my eyes are open and shut. It means I can always see.”
I wake up from that dream and I thought that was interesting. There was this final dream that brought me home. We’re now out here in Central Queensland. They’re doing the coal seam gas. They’re doing fracking. This area is one of the largest areas with the largest number of coal mines. Our great artesian base and our water, there’s so much stuff, and this is such a sacred ancient water space in abundance if we manage it in the right way. That is starting to get violated and starting to get wasted. We don’t know how long we have it for and what damage because if we lose that, we’re done.
That’s the only water source we have out here. We’re in a desert country. It goes, it’s gone. This dream I had where the old people had come, we went flying. It was like astral traveling with them. I remembered hovering in front of this massive, big ironbark tree. It was a huge tree. What I vividly remember was taste, smell and texture. I even remembered feeling the breeze when I woke up from this dream. We went inside this cave, all my ancestors and myself, after we went flying around looking how magical, beautiful, remember where you grew up, and remember all of this.
In this cave, there were these red and white hand stencils, etchings and things. I’m sitting there and I’m going, “This is cool.” They said, “We sit for a while and rest, and we’re going to go back out again.” We went back out and the land was barren with nothing left. They are wild and gnarly. I said, “What am I supposed to do? Why have you shown me this?” They said, “It’s time for you to go home.” I said, “Why?” “You need to go home. You need to start to change it. You need to start to talk.” I go, “Who’s going to listen to me? They said, “It doesn’t matter. By and by, they will listen. You need to go home.”
That was on a Monday morning, I woke up and it was fresh. I rolled over and I said to my husband, “Graham, I have to go home.” Friday, I packed up and gone. It happened that quickly because it was this spiritual drive. I thought it was something but I knew I had to go so I left. Graham didn’t come home for twelve months after because we had to sell up the properties. He had to get everything sorted because Suzanne is gone. I love him because he understands. He’s English.
He wasn’t part because he understands his heritage. That started that journey of coming home. As things unraveled, Gracevale appears. The experience now with Gracevale, the opportunity that we’re getting is to protect and preserve our springs and to bring back the Seven Springs. The site houses the whole Seven Sisters’ stories. One particular part on the 5 kilometers of Gorge, a Scotsman country, which has etchings all the way through is 200 meters long but there’s one section that has the whole star story which we shared in seeing the Seven Sisters dreaming and then having the Seven Springs here on the property.
We’re rainmakers. It’s all of this ceremonial stuff like songlines, a whole lot of things that connect to that. We’re getting the opportunity. One of the awesome things is we’re looking at doing native foods because we sustained ourselves off this. I’d shared with you as I’ll share with the audience is that, a couple of years ago, we were in drought. I was asked to do a Bushtukah talk at the Garden Expo. I said, “Sure.” I thought I’ve got to show them so I went out of town. It’s not far, about 500 meters out of town. Into the town common, town reserve. I came back in with 28 different specimens of bushfood, medicines, plants and fruits.
I presented it and everybody was like, “Wow.” I said to them, “We’re in drought but we’re only in drought for cattle and sheep, but not for this stuff because we’re in a drought and look at our harvest. It doesn’t need a lot of water. It grows here.” It was 70% of my people’s diets. We didn’t suffer the illnesses that we suffer now. We had great teeth. We had great health. We were strong, great structure, we live longer, diabetes, all of those sorts of things. Even when we think about protein and stuff like meats and things, we didn’t eat that all the time either. It was more of our other plants and the plants that we ate. We’re doing that. We’re looking at putting in some native bush tomato, quinoa and we’re looking at ale. We’re creating tonic water out of the bark, looking at our medicine grass which is lemongrass, which we had to try off. It is great for migraines and all health benefits that come with it.
Also, we’ve got the opportunity where we’re starting to do carbon farming. The landholder has cleared the land. We’ve bought it from them. It’s been cleared of all the trees. We’re getting paid as Aboriginal people to watch the trees grow back, which is fantastic, and start to store carbon we’re getting. What we’re aiming to do is to lead the way in teaching all landholders, especially around Central Queensland how to manage their land through indigenous Aboriginal land management practices, how we did for the many millennia before.
I’ve been reading Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu book. In it, he talks about the land management practices, the farming practices of the Aboriginal people which for a time wasn’t even taught in history books. In other words, the senators thought, “The Aboriginal people aren’t doing anything.” They didn’t think they were on the land. When they saw them, they dismissed how wise and how smart they were with agriculture, economics, but on all sorts of levels, they were dismissed out of hand. You’re reviving what helps your people enjoy the land, kept the soil, and everybody healthy.
If they denied that then that still meant that those are terra nullius. We were nomadic people. That’s why that was denied.
They have to say you were nomadic so that they could have a blind eye toward what was there.
So that they could live in their dishonesty and that dispossession of us. We’re out here and we’re part of what they call the ancient grain belt. We were the first bakers. Down in the museum in Brisbane at the moment, they have a 30,000-year-old piece of loaf bread. It’s on display down there.
Do you think it’s possible to bring back the next generation of Aboriginal people back to these traditional ways? Do you hope to educate them here at Gracevale Station? Are they interested at all in their culture and their ways?
They are. What I found is since acquiring the land and the land is here, it’s almost become the glue. All the Aboriginal people want is our piece of land back. When I think of my sons, nieces, nephews and even all of those generations because my generation is the last generation to get it right. If we think about us as a people that moved across this continent, we’re the rainbow serpent. We’re all connected as one whole piece. Elders are the head, young ones are the tail, but it’s the ones in the middle, the middle fellows, the whispering ones. An old uncle once told me, “It’s you fellows that walk the two worlds because you still have access, knowledge and connection to that old knowledge. You also understand that the young one is coming up in that modern world. It’s you that understand policy, business, culture more and all of those things that have to come back in and reconnect us.”
By acquiring the land, it has afforded me that opportunity to be able to do that. My granddaughter, Iver, doesn’t sing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. She sings May Be Deary, that dance we did. Since she was little, she knows that language because we now can teach our culture. We now can be proud of that culture again. Our language can be spoken, all of these things. My sons, nieces, and nephews in that generation can be truly proud to be an Aboriginal person.
I have a couple more questions to ask you as we start to close. Since this show is called Wise Traditions, I was wondering if you could share a tradition that you embrace from your culture, and you would be willing to share with the audience that is a beautiful thing that all of us could benefit from wherever we are in the world.
There’s a tradition when it comes to mealtime and that sense of order in all of us. When we have a clear sense and understanding of our ancestral order or the order of how things are within our family, then we get it. When I talked about my granddaughter becoming my mother’s Nana, there’s that sense of order. Sometimes, I try to figure it and I was telling myself, “I don’t understand why fellows don’t get that. Isn’t that part of it? Isn’t that what you do?” When it comes to a meal, for instance, and the family gets together, the youngest ones serve the eldest first. They give them their food first because they’re the ones that are important to eat first.
That’s something that’s missing when we think of tradition. That’s something that all cultures had. For us, it’s how important our elders are, how important it is to acknowledge if we’re entering into somebody else’s country, what we would do to welcome the country here. That’s acknowledging who you are. If we’re coming into somebody’s home or into their yard, we acknowledge it’s their place. One of the things part of that is we don’t come into that home and take things out and away because we know that that’s their sacred stuff.
When I think about what we’re taught, it’s about those things that are important and sacred, and that space you’re entering into is somebody else’s. If you’re coming into somebody’s country, you’re coming into their home. Say, “Hello. This is who I am. This is what I’m doing here.” That person will turn and will say, “Welcome. You can come, sit and eat here with me.” If we come in without an avenue of that intention, we’re going to get that conflict. If that’s it then that’s one of those things.
That would be a better world if we live this way.
I often pose this question at the end and it can be anything that comes to your mind. If the audience could do one thing to improve their health because a lot of people who read this are looking to get healthier, what would you recommend that they do?
Get in touch with what your natural native ingredients are that grow, that you can catch, but try to appreciate having it in its more natural sense like a freshwater mussel or what we call a freshwater crayfish. People often say, “I like those freshwater mussels,” because you’re boiling them in water. I go, “Think about it. What did my people have to boil in?” “Nothing, really.” I said, “What we did is we threw it straight in the coals.” Throwing it in the coals, that natural thing from the timber smoke adds this beautiful sweetness to it.
The same as when I catch a freshwater fish, I’ll make sure I bleed it, but I don’t skin it. I don’t gut it. I throw it straight on the coals or I might place a mud over it which acts as an oil foil. I sit that in the coals because as the mud hardens, it cooks it inside and then I can pull it back. Everything in that is natural. There are no preservatives. It’s the same with the yabby, straight on the coals. Why do we keep thinking about adding all these other things? We also can start to appreciate that there are a lot of awesome native food products coming onto the market.
The lemon myrtle can add a beautiful flavor to things, the Kakadu plum, the preservative, but also all of its properties and things that it has in it and it’s health benefits. Our teas too. Finding your natural teas. For me, Gumby Gumby cures cancer. I gave Gumby Gumby to my cousin’s wife and she texted me the other day. She said, “Please, can you send me some more Gumby Gumby? Do you remember my friend that had a brain tumor?” I said, “Yes.” She said, “She’s going back, it stopped growing and it’s reducing its size. The Gumby Gumby is keeping her alive and saving her life.”
I fixed myself on Gumby. I don’t get colds and flu. When we start to tap into all of those things that are part of our natural environment, but also seeking out that traditional knowledge from indigenous people and respecting that it’s a shared benefit. We’re the knowledge holder so we must be honored for that. We are happy to share but don’t forget the benefits that need to come back to indigenous people.
That’s powerful. It’s why I’m so grateful to be here because you have shared with me, I want to take what you’ve given, and share it with others as well. We all can benefit with no one losing anything, no one taking anything without permission. It’s a beautiful thing.
I love what you’re doing. I’ll say a big thank you to you too.
Our guest was Suzanne Thompson. Learn more about Australian Native Food and Botanicals, the group Suzanne chairs at ANFAB.org.au. To see Suzanne, check out the movie we made entitled The Wisdom of Traditional Cultures on my Holistic Hilda YouTube channel. You can find resources for health and podcasting on my website, HolisticHilda.com.
About Suzanne Thompson
Suzanne has returned to country after two decades of working within Government agencies and private business enterprises. For the most part, she worked in the areas of: Youth and policy Development, Community Development, Indigenous Business Advisor; Volunteering commitments – Board Member of the Queensland Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Legal Services Board, Noosa Bio Sphere Board, Committee Member for the Desert Uplands Committee (Landholders), founding member of Yumbangku Aboriginal Cultural Heritage and Tourism Development Aboriginal Corporation.
Suzanne is the National Co-Chair for the Statement from the Heart Working Group.
She owns and manages her own gallery and also runs with her husband a very successful ‘Wood Fired Pizza’ business called the ‘Lounging Emu’ in Barcaldine. Suzanne sees these enterprises as a key opportunity to share the stories of her ancestral knowledge and practices to the tourist and locals.
Suzanne has also teamed up with landowners of the district to work in partnership to further develop relationships with both Indigenous and Non-Indigenous. She is passionate about the opportunities that both cultures can create into the future as new industries for outback communities. Her passions have seen her embrace the sharing of local Native food & medicine plants throughout the Region.