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The Paleo Diet is the new best thing to hit the market for food conscious first worlders. This paper will use the Paleo Diet as the critical lens for an examination of the food history of Australia over the last 230 years as it speaks to Indigenous-settler relations. Three foods, kangaroo, fish, and corn, are used as lenses by which to theorise these relations. Analysis suggests that there are three distinct periods: food scarcity and contestation, food security through adaptation and absorption, and re-emergence of a postcolonial concept of food sovereignty alongside the competing interests of highly urbanized first world seeking out the same food resources once again.
The period of food scarcity and contestation about food between Indigenous people and newcomers occurred for about 50-70 years after fist contact, explorations, settlement, and the loss of Indigenous food sovereignty was marked by the consumption of many foods now considered acceptably ‘Paleo’. The second period, between the 1840s and 1960s depending on the frontier expansion is a period identified as one of adaptation and absorption, with settlers achieving food security through the industrialization of food production methods while Aboriginal people were absorbed into the emerging cash economy, being restricted in access to their traditional estates, and their subsistence way of life. The third, the period of re-emergence, heralds the Aboriginal claim to the right to food sovereignty because of the changed relationship between the state and Indigenous peoples of Australia with the recognition of the pre-existing, and unextinguished, ‘native title’ rights, enabling the re-emergence of traditional food cultivation methods and practices on some estates within the capitalist economy. For settlers and more recent immigrants, growing niche marketability of the Paleo Diet as clean food raises the spectre of the recurrence of ‘romantic savagery’ as a maladaptive strategy in the ongoing struggle for food security between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
Dr Zane Ma Rhea is Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Education.
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