Should large supermarkets have an aisle for local groceries, similar to the special aisles for Asian, Mexican and other international cuisines?
The answer is a resounding yes for Yamatji chef and reality TV star Matt Moncrieff, who uses his public profile to urge change.
Moncrieff and his best friend Kaitlin “KT” Pisani this year became the first Aboriginal team to compete in the 12-year history of the Channel 7 show My Kitchen Rules.
Born and raised in Carnarvon in the Gascoyne region of Western Australia, Moncrieff cites kangaroo tail, saltbush and pepperberry as ingredients he enjoys cooking with.
“Growing up, I always ate local ingredients,” he said.
“When I left home, I found it really, really difficult to find my groceries, and food is a kind of reminder of home.”
Moncrieff said he’s been “inundated” with questions about where to source local produce for his recipes since the end of his appearance on the show.
While smaller and specialized suppliers often source them, the cost can be prohibitive.
“It’s incredibly difficult for me to find, or even afford, locally sourced ingredients to make my traditional foods,” he said.
“It would just be a lot easier if we could stock it in the supermarkets.”
A request for change
A little over a week ago, Moncrieff started a petition urging Coles and Woolworths to start stocking local ingredients.
Since then, she has collected nearly 4,000 signatures.
“Coles and Woolworths have Asian, Mexican and English aisles, but they don’t stock our incredible Australian native ingredients. Why?” he said in the petition’s description.
He has his sights set on the two major supermarket chains that stock Kakadu plums, lemon myrtle, bush tomatoes, saltbush and warragul vegetables.
“This would be an incredible opportunity to celebrate our local ingredients, showcase our amazing Indigenous culture, create jobs and most importantly, affirm that Australian cuisine is traditional Aboriginal food,” he said.
“Australians have a unique opportunity to connect with Aboriginal history and culture through traditional food with a modern twist.”
Local ingredients the new frontier
Celebrity chef and Bundjalung man Mark Olive says local cuisine is a new horizon for home cooking in Australia.
“Let’s face it, everyone has a curry, everyone has five spices in their cupboard, but we need this country to move forward and have our own indigenous ingredients like the lemon myrtles and the acacia seeds,” he said.
“I think it’s going to be another five years, ten years before this is in the closet like Vegemite.”
Moncrieff said some supermarkets may not be stocking domestic produce due to demand and the logistical challenges involved.
“I know it’s a huge animal,” he said.
“But I think there’s jobs and potential out there, and I think Coles and Woolies and these big supermarkets can do it.”
A Coles spokesman said the company is proud to sell products that contain indigenous ingredients and support indigenous businesses in both its supermarkets and liquor stores.
“Popular brands include Karrajong Kitchens, Yaru, Seven Seasons, Beachtree Distilling Co, Mt Yengo Wines and Spinifex Brewing Co,” they said.
A Woolworths spokesman said the company is always looking for more ways to stock local produce.
“We already support a number of indigenous companies like DHUWA Coffee who source a number of great products for our customers,” they said, adding that the products are in high demand.
“We are open to these discussions with additional First Nations businesses and suppliers.”