In our next interview series, we're honoured to chat to the wonderful participants in our Charles Sturt Indigenous Entrepreneur Program about their ideas, the work they're doing and the future of First Nations representation in food and agriculture. We're privileged to support them over the course of the four month program, and we can't wait to keep you updated on their journey.
Introducing Felicity Kerslake, owner of All Natural Medicine & Dispensary and the Australian BushFood Education Centre, a leading regional natural health and performance clinic offering expert support using natural health, native foods and sports nutrition. We spoke to Felicity about the wonderful work that she's doing.
Food Futures: Hi Felicity! Can you tell us about All Natural Medicine & Dispensary and what your offering is?
Felicity: All Natural Medicine & Dispensary is a business focussed on supporting health naturally by combining nature with science and culture – having been a naturopath for two decades now, I wanted to create a trusted space where people could go for all things natural medicine. If they’d never been to a naturopath or didn’t know where to go, it was set up for them to get qualified advice and learn how to reconnect with nature, adopt preventative health strategies, and create great health, energy and wellbeing naturally.
Food Futures: What inspired the inception of All Natural Medicine?
Felicity: It came about from the age of 13, I had this feeling that all I wanted to be was a naturopath. I was always a kid that was outside being active in the garden, making potions out of plants, reading up about aromatherapy and bush foods. I didn’t question this feeling and this is how I got here today. The sports nutrition came in later in postgraduate studies, which focusses on how to create more energy.Because of that journey, my primary focus now is gut and immune health, energy and metabolism (and that’s where the sport nutrition comes in), using natural medicines and native plants to empower people to connect with country and be proactive with their health.This helps to keep plant medicines sustainable and the food and medicine supply local too.
Food Futures: So how did the Australian BushFood Education Centre (a subscription-based educational platform for the wider public and healthcare professionals to learn about native ingredients, usage and benefits and native topical products for sports injuries) come about?
Felicity: The educational platform came about through my work in my clinic. I’ve found that there isn’t a lot of awareness around native medicines and plants. I found it challenging that research has been done into native medicines and plants, but it’s all over the place and makes it difficult for the general population to find.The online educational platform is designed for individuals and communities, with a subset for health professionals. At the moment, we’re lacking a space where health professionals can go to understand any potential native plant herb/nutrient/drug interactions, what the native foods are and also for the general public to know about these foods.It also aims to capture the knowledge held in a culturally safe way – so that only knowledge that is appropriate to be shared will be shared before it is referred back to the knowledge holder who has permission to share it. We know that a lot of knowledge was lost because of how First Nations people were treated in the past. Looking forward, I aim to capture that knowledge so that it’s not lost and promote the health of people and Country now and for future generations. This is my way of creating a space where this knowledge can be captured but to also ensure that we’re really respectful and protective of that knowledge too so that it still sits within its cultural context; the history is not separate from the science – it’s altogether.
Having played sport a lot and national level football (soccer) I began making topical products to heal and repair for faster recovery. My native sports cream started out of my own personal use and knowing that it was getting good results. It was an “I’m using it, it’s working well, I’m over 40 and still active and is there anyone else out there who wants to try it?" situation. I'm making these medicines bespoke for people, but there is an opportunity and a need for everyone playing sport to incorporate it into their recovery. It's in the testing phase however it will be microbiome friendly for the skin and include beautiful native ingredients that are super powerful for speeding up healing and repair.
Food Futures: What are some of the long-term goals that you have for these businesses?
Felicity: The long-term goal is to be the leading centre or point of call where people get information on native plants and foods. So that is as a research hub for educators and health professionals wanting higher level knowledge, but also down to the ground level on how we can actually use native plants, so that people can incorporate them into their daily lives and they're going to contribute to great health, energy and wellbeing - they're not just fancy restaurant foods. The ultimate aim would be to have a social enterprise farm where teaching and learning will be hands on and you come out with a qualification.
Food Futures: What are your hopes for the future of First Nations food and agriculture?
Felicity: I'd like it to be centred around First Nations people. I'd like to see the industry be First Nations-led across the board, from decision-making, through policy, government etc - and that it goes from the ground up as well, so using sustainable practices, Indigenous cultural knowledge on how we manage farms to nurture Country, give back and generate the growth of Indigenous businesses. My ultimate dream would be to see this space being Indigenous-led at every level of the industry structure.
Food Futures: Is there anything else in this space that you feel needs to be talked about?
Felicity: A big thing I've found is that the challenges faced by people working in this space are very similar - even though we're all in different businesses. There is a lot of concern around the IP (the cultural intellectual property) and how to keep the knowledge safe so that it's not exploited - in the sense that we want to share, but not so that it's a 'take take take' situation. It's a complex space to work in and it's really important to acknowledge that it's a difficult journey for Indigenous businesses to fit into the Westernised construct of business and we have to adapt to that. For example, prices might be a little bit higher, but this reflects the quality and care that goes into the product from the ground up and the sustainability of how it impacts future generations - so if you do come across a native product that is a little more expensive, it is because there has been a lot more value added in that chain.
Stay tuned for our upcoming interviews with the Charles Sturt Indigenous Entrepreneur Program participants and subscribe to our newsletter to keep updated on all things Food Futures Company.