Australia’s bush food industry could be worth up to $50 million a year but the lack of cultural protection for First Nations people is hindering their involvement. Alan Beattie, chief executive of Noongar Land Enterprise Group, said it was a challenge for Aboriginal people to participate in the industry, which showcases foods like wattle seeds, lemon myrtle, sandalwood and the Kakadu plum. “There’s nothing stopping any person at the moment taking that cultural knowledge and exploiting it for their own personal gain with no flow-back benefits to the original knowledge-holders,” Mr Beattie said. “Due to what’s occurred in the past with the exploitation of cultural knowledge, we found Aboriginal groups and individuals are very hesitant to get too involved in the bush food industry.” The findings come from the grower group’s two-year project in collaboration with Food Innovation Australia, which explored how the nation’s bush food industry could grow through Aboriginal participation. Mr Beattie found other factors that were an obstacle to involvement in the industry were the lack of Aboriginal people’s access to land to conduct bush food practices and difficulty in accessing equity to develop businesses. “Aboriginal people weren’t actually allowed to own land and participate in the economy until the mid-1970s so there isn’t a passing down of wealth from one generation to another,” he said. The group has called on the Federal Government to put legislation in place to help and improve the economic capacity of First Nations people. “If they put the relevant legislation and processes into place then that goes a long way in giving the Aboriginal people the confidence to be able to participate in the industry,” Mr Beattie said. He said the general public also had a part to play in the protection of First Nations’ cultural knowledge. “They can lobby their local MP to actually do something about this, it hasn’t been on the agenda of either a Labor or Liberal government because it hasn’t had that public pressure,” Mr Beattie said. “Another thing consumers can do is be very diligent about what they are buying and trying to find out who is actually producing that food.” According to ongoing research by Bushfood Sensations, only one per cent of the industry’s produce is generated by First Nations people. Mr Beattie said he was concerned that figure would decrease without legislation to foster participation. “This is our native Australian produce and surely, our First Nations people should be, not only participating, but leading it,” he said.