By Growcom CEO Stephen Barnard

This week as part of NAIDOC Week we are recognising the historic and ongoing contributions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the original horticulturalists of Queensland.

NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia each July to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

This year the NAIDOC theme is ‘Heal Country’ which, in part, means providing greater management, involvement, and empowerment by Indigenous peoples over country.

Horticulture is a diverse and vibrant industry. We are lucky to have so many different ethnic and cultural groups involved, who each bring their rich traditions in fruit and vegetable cultivation to Queensland.

Many years ago most small country towns around the state relied on Chinese migrants for their supply fresh produce. Migrants from the Mediterranean post WWII established and continue to run successful operations from Far North Queensland to the Granite Belt. Market gardens in Queensland suburbs tended by migrants from South East Asia make an important contribution to our culinary experiences.

Horticulture however, unlike the pastoral industries and with a few notable exceptions, has not enjoyed a strong and consistent Indigenous presence.

But we’re a growing industry with lots of opportunity for new entrants, new products, systems and ways of thinking. We have not just the room but an obligation to draw more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples into our industry.

With the exception of the macadamia nut, we are as a society only just coming around to realising the benefits and value of our native bush foods and medicines. These are significant assets whose development and commercialisation must be led by Indigenous peoples and lead to their empowerment.

Growcom as the industry leader is committed to working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, government agencies and other interested parties to grow our industry and further empower Indigenous peoples. As a starting point we are collecting and promoting stories of success. This NAIDOC Week we are calling for examples of Indigenous participation and ownership in the Queensland horticulture industry. Please send them through to Richard Shannon, our advocacy manager at rshannon@growcom.com.au.