During Yawuru’s warm transitional Wilburu season (September), and in the hot ‘build-up’ season Larja (October–November), you will find wattle trees laden with seed-pods and dripping with seed.
This year, our Social Enterprise Project worked with Aboriginal ranger groups to lay foundations for an annual sustainable commercial-scale wattleseed harvest. Together with EK, Bardi Jawi, Karajarri and Nyangumarta Rangers, Yawuru Country Managers and Yiriman Women ventured into the heat to harvest wattle seed. They collected seedpods by laying tarps on the ground and shaking the trees. They then sorted and cleaned the seeds under a shady tree, with a billy of tea. Winnowing with the breeze facilitated lots of chatting, laughs and the sharing of stories. Together we harvested and cleaned 40kgs of (mostly) soap wattle (Acacia colei) — an amazing effort.
L-R Bardi Jawi Oorang Rangers Tamara Moore, Chenielle George, Tiyana Edgar and Vivien Hunter. Photo: Kylie Weatherall
SKIPA volunteers then experimented to find the most efficient method for the next cleaning stage. This time, sieves and vacuum seed-cleaning equipment came in handy, and again, the most important part of the day was the conversations facilitated by cups of tea and cake.
Wattleseed collection is an important step toward a bigger picture, in which Aboriginal people, while managing natural resources and engaging in cultural activities on Country, have increased opportunities to make an income seasonally. Within the Social Enterprise Project, we are providing technical and logistical support for collectors in an industry that places value on Country being healthy for sustainable harvest. We hope to collect enough seed to approach potential buyers with a pilot product.
With consultant Andrew Batt (Epoch), we are developing a social enterprise model — where profits go back to the collectors and pay for the equipment, facilities and systems to maintain a viable community-based enterprise. Andrew will help us develop the right type of agreements, find the right market, develop a brand for what we are temporarily calling the ‘Wattleseed Collective’, and identify financially sustainable avenues for this wattleseed to get to the market in future years.
Wattleseed, Acacia colei in seed on Djugan and Yaruwu Country. Photo: Kylie Weatherall
The Social Enterprise Project is funded through Lotterywest. The wattleseed harvest and the Kimberley Community Seedbank have also been supported through the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program and the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal.