Aboriginal Bush Foods - Insect, Animal and Plant Foods

A wide range of plants and animals were eaten, and insect foods included certain ants, grubs and beetles, while streams provided fish and eels. Many birds were eaten, including waterfowl, scrub fowl, the Cassowary and the Jabiru. The yellow fat of the goanna (a large Australian lizard) was considered a delicacy.


Photo of women and childreen setting out to go food collecting

Queen Adjal and other women and children setting out for a day's walk, food collecting. (From motion-picture film.)

Photo of Ornate Burrowing Frog (Limnodynastes ornatus)

The Ornate Burrowing Frog (Limnodynastes ornatus) from the rainforest is eaten.

Photo of an insect lavra (bibaj)

Bibaj, an insect larva (grub) eaten by people in the north Queensland rainforest. Larvae such as these are found by looking for the tell-tale signs of powder at the tree or holes in the bark, and then finding the larvae under the bark. Grubs can be eaten raw or roasted.


Photo of Whirligig Beetle (Macrogyrus viridisulcatus)

Whirligig Beetle (Macrogyrus viridisulcatus). Evelyne, north Queensland. These swim in circles on water surfaces and have split eyes allowing both underwater and above-water vision. They are collected and eaten by the Aborigines.

Photo of wood cockroach (Panesthia), called kalabaj by the Aborigines

Wood cockroach (Panesthia), called kalabaj by the Aborigines, who eat it by gently crushing the shell in their teeth and then sucking out its insides.

Photo of Common Brushtail Possum (Trichosurus vulpecula)

The Common Brushtail Possum (Trichosurus vulpecula), seen here in open savanna near the Coleman River, Cape York Peninsula, was a food source for Aborigines.

Photo of Bennett's Tree-Kangaroo (Dendrolagus bennettianus)

Bennett’s Tree-Kangaroo (Dendrolagus bennettianus) was found around the Daintree River region, in northern Queensland.

Photo of two women and a child pouring karol (Dioscorea sativa v. rotunda)

Two women and a child pouring karol (Dioscorea sativa v. rotunda) from a palm leaf container into a depression in the ground. Cape York Peninsula. From motion-picture film. This is a staple food, a ground vegetable (the round yam, similar to a bush potato) which needs crushing and washing to leach away its poison before it can be eaten. The plant is a root dug from under the ground, and then mashed in water. From there it is poured into a ground depression, and allowed to dry. The resulting material, similar to mashed potatoes, provides an important daily food.

Photo of Bandicoots (Perameles)

Bandicoots (Perameles) are small Australian marsupials and different species are found throughout the country. This specimen was photographed at the Australian Museum.