Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR)

In 2013, a group of like-minded and passionate home economics teachers in Western Australia got together to create an organisation focused on training and assisting young people to develop career pathways in the education, food and hospitality industries.

The group, called Live To Tell Your Story Inc (LTTYS), runs an annual program called Prepare Produce Provide Djinda Ngardak. This culinary program first launched in 2017 and offers First Nations youth (aged 15-17 years) the opportunity to attend a life-changing, week-long camp that shines a light on First Nations culture and connection to land and food. Attendees from across WA are trained and mentored by some of WA’s top chefs. The program celebrates culture, food and storytelling, as well as developing skills primarily linked to employment pathways.

LTTYS received a $10,000 Strengthening Rural Communities Grant to assist in delivering a revised version of Djinda Ngardak alongside the 2023 Desert Dust Up. This annual event brings together eight schools from the Ngaanyatjarra Lands in the Goldfields-Esperance region of Western Australia for three days of activities.

The theme for the program was “Let’s Power-up for Dust Up”. In adapting to the requirements of Desert Dust Up, LTTYS worked closely with the Ngaanyatjarra Lands Schools leadership team, staff and cultural leaders to prepare nutritional meals, access local food sources and create a culturally responsive ‘food skills’ development program to complement both the social and educative aims of Desert Dust Up. The model combines traditional cooking practices with contemporary recipes and styles.

Over 17 days, the Prepare Produce Provide Djinda Ngardak team delivered workshops at seven campuses across Ngganyatjarra lands. Students and staff were active participants and there was a noticeable increase in school attendance as their trip progressed. The workshops were guided by Indigenous Elders and chefs using gathered bush ingredients and provided an insight into ancestral culinary heritage. Evening sessions were also held to support and educate teachers in the delivery of food-related workshops that they could incorporate in their classroom teaching. Additional community members, including police, nurses, Elders and rangers, also participated in the delivery of the workshops.

In addition to teaching the basics of food hygiene and nutrition, and being mentored by industry professionals, the culinary workshops delivered a range of other soft, transferrable skills, as well as sharing and exchanging cultural knowledge, skills and traditional practices, storytelling and enhancing culinary skills.

The program culminated in the delivery of healthy lunchboxes for participants at the 2023 Dust Up. Across the three days of events, more than 4,000 pieces of food were cooked and served to over 350 guests in the local and wider communities. The meals reflected learnings and the work achieved from the workshops on the Lands.

While the 2023 Djinda Ngardak Dust Up program was deemed an outstanding success, it certainly wasn’t without its challenges such as shifting timelines, changing numbers for catering and food supplies either missing or simply not available.

Catherine MacDougall, founder of LTTYS, said that the support from FRRR has provided an opportunity to build networks with additional community members that will be called upon for 2024 Dust Up.

“Relationships are key to the sustainability and growth of the program. FRRR has provided support funds to enhance the Dust Up program, originally developed to address the large issue of food insecurity in remote regions of Western Australia. Dust Up is now a significant program for the LTTYS organisation. It reflects the passion and dedication of our team.”