SAI Global partners with the Wadeye Community to achieve certification for Kakadu plum harvesting

August 30, 2016

In May this year, SAI Global undertook a food certification audit of Kakadu plums in Wadeye in the Northern Territory of Australia. Working on behalf of the Kindred Spirits Foundation Australia (KSF), the audit included a desktop review of the documented Food Safety Plan, and observation of the picking, sorting, grading, freezing, packing and dispatch of Kakadu plums.

The Wadeye community are partly reliant on the wild harvesting of the Kakadu plum for economic independence and so this audit and certification was critical to ensuring a sustained livelihood for these people.

KSF partners with a range of local projects that have the potential to transform communities, encouraging and strengthening the people of those communities, by addressing the social and environmental issues affecting quality of life. Together with their 'friends and family' network, KSF works with communities to build capacity, recognise challenges and create long term differences and solutions.

This initiative brought with it the first opportunity for Indigenous Australians living in this remote area of the country to experience and be part of a system that not only analysed and addressed the processes involved in what constitutes their livelihood, but more importantly provided the rare opportunity for recognition of the work being done on land, and pride in the community. 

 

The women in Wadeye who have been working to receive the harvested Kakadu plum and sort, grade, pack, freeze and prepare the fruit for transport on the barge, run a great business. The workers are skilled, enthusiastic and we now know are doing a job to world standard. They, the harvesters, scientists, Kindred Spirits and the community can now grow the harvest knowing we have got it right. Knowing we can grow jobs and the economy of the Thamarrurr region around Wadeye.

Ann Shanley

Director and Executive Officer, Kindred Spirits Foundation

There were many challenges with the audit. The availability of the fruit is seasonal so there is a short season in which the operations can be reviewed. Added to this is the remoteness of the community, situated at the end of a 300km stretch of corrugated gravel road that is only accessible by vehicle in the dry season and can be impassable for months. Driving involves an entire day's travel from Darwin via 4WD vehicles so plane from Darwin is required.

Being Aboriginal land, permission is needed to enter the area. Remoteness is one of the key barriers to enterprise and development in this area and cost of getting materials in and out can be restrictive. The harvest and collection of fruits is voluntary, pickers are trained and registered and must seek permission of Traditional Owners to access land to pick fruit. It is up to the registered pickers to decide each day whether they go out 'on country' to pick fruit. 

'Looking after country', a term that relates to the cultural obligations that Indigenous Traditional Owners have to maintain the health of their lands (Clan Estates), is about caring for both cultural and natural resources and maintaining important spiritual connections. Economic activity based on the use of resources on people's country will assist people meet these obligations. This SAI Global audit is one of many first steps towards successfully linking traditional Aboriginal culture with compliance and requirements for future economic stability.

The Wadeye community successfully achieved certification for food safety. This will allow them to continue with this much needed Kakuda plum harvesting as a business enterprise and share the knowledge and experiences gained through the certification process with similar regional communities across the monsoonal top of Australia.  It is envisaged that SAI Global will continue their role as leaders and mentors in 2017 in the communities of Kimberly in Western Australia and Kakadu in Northern Territory.