What is the staple food of Australia

Bush food, bushtucker

Table of Contents

With Bush food denotes foods from Australia that are indigenous to the region and that were used by the native Australians. They are also called Bushtucker known. The Aboriginal diet is traditionally based on plant and animal foods such as seeds, starchy roots, fruits, vegetables, spices and nuts, as well as meat, insects, fish and seafood. Few mushrooms are known as bush food. Other traditional Aboriginal foods include wild honey, nectar, and tree sap.

Traditional uses of bush food

Native Australian diets varied from region to region and depended on what the country had to offer. Many foods were only available seasonally, for example when they were ripe or their toxicity was lowest. Some foods were consumed in small quantities as medicine or candy, while others were staple foods and could be found year-round. Aboriginal people generally did not store food. Their cooking methods were very different from today's habits. Most tribes knew no pots or containers and garden their food directly in the fire, on coals, in the hot ashes or in earth ovens. Apart from a few tribes in the north, Aborigines did not boil water and therefore knew neither tea nor soup.

All Aboriginal foods have a connection to the Dream time, their traditional mythical worldview. Customs and rules relating to food developed from this belief. Many Aborigines still follow these rules today. For example, some foods may only be collected or prepared by women, others only by men. In general, men were responsible for hunting animals, while women were responsible for collecting plants and insects. Animals that were sacred in one tribe were sometimes hunted and eaten by other tribes.

Modern use of bush food

The first white settlers considered local food to be inferior, if not inedible. Nonetheless, they often relied on bush food to survive. Those settler groups who learned to find and prepare edible plants and animals in the Australian bush had a much greater chance of survival than those who tried without it. Some foods traditionally consumed by Aborigines are now respected, more readily available and in some cases are even very popular. Examples are kangaroo meat, spices like wattleseed or lemon myrtle and fruits like quandong or cockatoo plums. Others, such as the many species of insects and lizards that were important sources of protein for the Australian aborigines, are unlikely to become widespread. Restaurants are also increasingly using bush food ingredients, albeit often differently from what the Aboriginal people used. The fruits are now used to make jams, sauces or chutneys, the spices add flavor to many dishes from steaks to cappuccino, and some plants are now popular as tea.


  • Explore Australia: Bush Tucker Field Guide. Explore Australia, 2002 »
  • Margaret-Mary Turner-Neale: Bush Foods. Iad Pr, 1994 »