Bush to Bowl is an Aboriginal-owned and managed business that operates a plant nursery in Terrey Hills. Bush to Bowl, whose humble origins began in a greenhouse in a disused corner of Balgowlah Heights Primary School, also host ‘bush tucker’ treks sourcing wild foods around the Northern Beaches, run educational workshops for schools and businesses, and provide specialised training sessions for Indigenous youth.
Manly Observer spoke to manager and co-founder Adam Byrne, who, as a descendant of the Garigal (Northern Beaches) and Gadigal (southern shores of Sydney Harbour) clans, has a wealth of knowledge on Indigenous traditions..
What is Bush to Bowl?
“We’re a 100 per cent First Nations owned nursery,” Adam explained. “We also do a lot of education in schools, so it is an educational space as well. It started with the concept of having a safe place for Mob to connect back to their traditional plants and medicines on Country.”
‘Mob’, for the unfamiliar, is the contemporary term Indigenous people use to refer to their own social groups (which Europeans used to call ‘tribes’).
According to The Deadly Story Indigenous cultural resource website: “Aboriginal people belong to Mobs (tribes) and within those are Clans (family groups). There are over 250 Mobs in Australia and even more Clans (some Mobs have upwards of 7 clans)…
“All Mobs have their own ‘Country’ with boundaries that are typically marked on trees and by natural landscapes such as a river being a boundary between two neighbouring tribes or clans.”
What inspired the launch of Bush to Bowl?
“Just under two years ago, Clarence Bruinsma [a descendant of the Yaegl people who lived around present day Coffs Harbour] and I went to a Mob meet-up at Narrabeen for Indigenous families…
“Clarence and I had these mad yarns about plants. He loved them and grew them in his back yard already – local native trees, wildflowers and bush foods. I’m a landscaper by trade but I didn’t like spraying chemicals or planting exotic plants, so we had that as a common interest, and we both saw the need for an Indigenous presence in the bush foods industry.
“That basic concept that there weren’t enough blackfellas out there doing it was what we both felt passionate about. Currently there’s only 2 per cent of Aboriginal people in the bush foods industry, so we saw it as an important issue to address. It was one of our main drivers because it’s not really fair.
“Obviously it’s caused by the effects of things that happened in the past and we live in a different world now. But we’re trying to be as authentic as we can and true to our culture and our traditional lores by taking care of our community, taking care of Country and taking care of the animals.
“We’re basically trying to create a little footprint to inspire other Mob to do the same. If we can train them or give them the tools that we’ve learnt through our experience, then maybe they can go on their Country and do a similar thing.”
Is the primary focus on growing medicinal plants and ‘bush tucker’ (edible flora)?
“Yes and no,” Adam considered. “Our main focus is taking care of Country. There is an element of bush foods, which is an interesting conversation starter. It’s almost like the whole ‘coming to the table’ – excuse the pun! – and having those yarns about these foods and medicines presents us to a wider community.
“It can be a platform upon which people can connect to our traditional culture… So, people who are interested can sit down with us and ask those questions that lead to bigger conversations about Aboriginal people as well some of the difficult issues from the past that need to be addressed and healed.
“It’s going to take a while and all of us need to do it, not just First Nations people. It’s about all of us working together, to share and build confidence in our culture whilst bringing along allies to strengthen our communities…
“We also do Bush Tucker walks on Country, generally between Narrabeen and Warriewood, in which we yarn about taking care of Country and point out the wild foods.
“We even do a cook-up sometimes down there – wild foods and teas. You can book via our website; we can take out group parties or a few people at a time. It’s a nice afternoon activity…
“But our main drive is taking care of Country, whether that’s through growing local endemic, native plants, the regeneration of bushland, or creating community spaces.”
What educational work do Bush to Bowl do with schools on the Northern Beaches?
“We began sharing knowledge because we were often asked by teachers and educators and people in the community about our regenerative work and the history of the land we’re on. Other than the AECG [Aboriginal Education Consultative Group], who are amazing, they couldn’t find much Mob to pass on the knowledge as well as be confident enough to teach it in schools.
“We’re now doing a lot of programs with kids. In our Caring for Country school programs, for example, students learn about an endangered species of flora, which they get to sow and raise from a seed. Like Acacia terminalis, which is a sunshine wattle that is endangered around here.
“So, the kids raise that seed into a small tree and then plant it back on Country… The sunshine wattle can grow up to four metres high, like a tree shrub…
“It’s beautiful that as the kids grow into adults, the seedling also grows into a tree, and later they can look back on it, like when they’re forty years old, and think, ‘I planted that!’
“It’s really powerful for a child to have that personal connection with the tree, but it also helps heal a Country by regenerating endangered plants.”
How can people find Bush to Bowl and become involved?
“The nursery in Myoora Road is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays from 9am to 1.30pm, when people are welcome to come and volunteer their help.
“We’ll be running workshops all though the summer from the Terrey Hills nursery, and sometimes we host them in the Coastal Environmental Centre in Narrabeen.”
Bush to Bowl
Address: 18 Myoora Rd Terrey Hills, Sydney
Bush to Bowl also run a regular stall at Avalon Market on the Green