Native Foods inspire Aboriginal student chefs

A NSW Aboriginal Student Career Immersion program in Dubbo brought together Aboriginal High School students for culture and culinary skills training.

05 July 2021
Three women cooking in commercial kitchen
Image: Aboriginal students mentored in hospitality and culture skills in Dubbo.

A group of Aboriginal students from across NSW got a healthy taste of a career in the hospitality industry via a week-long “immersion” program in Dubbo.

The NSW Aboriginal Student Career Immersion program was designed to inspire the career aspirations for Aboriginal high school students to successfully transition into post-school apprenticeships.

The program gathered 22 Aboriginal students from 11 regional schools who worked closely over the week with Aboriginal chef Malarie Webster to develop the hospitality skills required to host a bush tucker inspired gala dinner at Dubbo’s Rhino Lodge.

Head Teacher Dubbo School of Distance Education Liana Taylor said learning is a lifelong journey and students can use the program as a jumping off point.

“For a lot of these students who are doing their HSC, they could be the only person in their whole family that’s ever done their HSC and finished their schooling,” Ms Taylor said.

“I really hope they go back to their communities and talk to their family, friends and whole school about the program…and encourage other people to become involved in this sort of program.”

CEO of Western Sydney Connections, Ana Pateman, said completing their HSC was a boost to their career prospects.

“Having those extra two years of school, and studying a VET course which involves industry experience, gives them that little bit of a head start,” Ms Pateman said.

The students also participated in masterclasses with education and wellbeing officer, Cecil See; chefs Adam Moore and Lee Cecchin; founder of Dreamtime Tuka Herb Smith, and local Aboriginal artist Bobby Mackay who worked with participants to produce a mural reflecting their journey.

Chef Adam Moore, who is also the Culinology Director at Culinary Revolutions, said having someone to mentor and guide young people made a world of difference to them having a fulfilling career in hospitality.

“I’ve always said in my career that if the young people are not tapping me on my shoulder for my job, what am I doing wrong?” Mr Moore said.

“As a young chef, I had lots of experienced chefs who guided and mentored me.”

Besides being exposed to the hospitality trades, the immersion program also saw students participate in cultural activities with Elders and Cultural Leaders, ranging from foraging and plant identification at Western Plains Zoo

They also spent time on Country and sharing stories through art workshops with a local Aboriginal artist.

Founder and CEO of Dreamtime Tukka, Herb Smith, said education was “so important”.

“It’s the key to the doorway to life,” Mr Smith said.

Program participant, Hannah Cooper from Temora High School, said she wanted to be an “inspiration to my younger siblings”.

“For them to see me finish [school] will make them want to finish as well,” Hannah said.

“Pursuing a career is important to me because I want to help other people and being connected with your Aboriginal identity while doing that is important because I’m passionate outside my career about being Aboriginal. So to bring that into the workforce will make me happy.”

A short video on the immersion program can be found here

Group of students and mentors  waving to the camera
Image: Happy students after a week of immersion in skills and culture training.
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