When a Royal Commission into the welfare of South Australia’s Aboriginal population was called in 1913, the idea of allocating fishing grounds to the repeatedly broached by David Unaipon, the famous Ngarrindjeri author and inventor. “In 1913, at the Royal Commission in Adelaide, he said, ‘Look, food security is a real issue. What about we get access to our traditional hunting and fishing grounds?’” Walker says. “He’s asking for a fishing licence in 1913. It took 106 years for us to get here, which is… you know, it just blows your mind.”
But don’t mistake this for a ‘give a man a fish/teach a man to fish’ scenario; it’s perhaps more akin to getting out of the way. The enterprise will provide economic empowerment to the Ngarrindjeri community, eventually employing dozens of Ngarrindjeri workers at various stages of production. But perhaps most importantly, the enterprise also will bring some long-overdue agency.
“We run a working on country program, and there is no better thing for our young people than to work on country,” Walker says. “We run some programs called cultural affirmation, and as they understand what their heritage is and where they’ve come from, it develops them as people.”