Healing Country with chocolate and tradition

Healing Country with chocolate and tradition

This week we’re celebrating NAIDOC Week, which has rather serendipitously coincided with World Chocolate Day on Wednesday, July 7. Baking Business caught up with Chocolate on Purpose—a 100 per cent Indigenous-owned boutique chocolaterie based in Millthorpe, NSW—to talk about healing Country with chocolate and tradition.

Started by Fiona Harrison, a proud Wiradjuri woman of the Galari (Lachlan) River, Chocolate on Purpose uses Australian native botanicals in its chocolate products, drawing on the wisdom of Fiona’s ancestors in their application.

Fiona has closed the business for a week packed with celebrations and events but took some time to talk to us about her mission, and what this year’s NAIDOC Week theme, ‘Heal Country’ means to her.

“My ancestors used Australian superfoods for millennia,” she says.

“The vision I have is to create a space for knowledge; for people to have knowledge on those bush foods, Australian native botanicals and the health benefits behind them; the traditional uses.”

Fiona previously worked in aromatherapy and carries her knowledge of aromatic profiles into her chocolate work. It was through aromatherapy that she met her friend and business supporter Jo, and fell into the world of chocolate after gifting Jo a chocolate course for her birthday.

In honour of NAIDOC Week, Chocolate on Purpose released a limited-edition gift pack containing traditional hand-painted clap sticks alongside three signature bushfood chocolates and a special NAIDOC Week message card, with proceeds going to The Healing Foundation, which supports Stolen Generation survivors and their families.

“Our ‘Murungidyal Marra-galang’ (Healing Hands) image speaks to the ‘nuture’ aspect of Healing,” she explains.

“Our ‘Milbarra-Dunha Yinaa’ (Clap Sticks) represent sending out a repeated, percussive message of “Heal Country” across our ancient songlines into the consciousness of all Australians.

“Our ‘Birramal Dhal-gu’ (Bush Food) chocolate flavours are the nourishment of nature and healing, with Ooray (Davidson Plum) being the ultimate virus/bacteria killer, Daguba (Riberry) the ‘remedy’ berry traditionally used for ‘Jarjum’ (children) ear pain and Gulalung (Finger Lime) being the immune system’s best friend.”

As well as celebrating her heritage through her unique chocolate products (including her branding, which is designed by Wiradjuri graphic artist Leticia Anne Designs), Fiona ensures she’s doing her bit to heal Country and support Indigenous communities by thoroughly vetting her bushfood suppliers, and encourages other businesses using native ingredients to do the same.

“Our contribution to the theme ‘Heal Country’ is that this is a responsibility that is in our hands. All Australians are the change makers,” she says.

“The thing is, only two per cent of the Indigenous bushfood industry is owned by Indigenous people. I really want to change that. There are some western companies that engage in what we call ‘black cladding’, where they make out they’re Aboriginal but they’re not.

“It’s really difficult—you need to do a lot of research to find the right supplier and make sure they’re authentic and actually helping First Nations communities.”

Healing Country, Fiona explains, is not just for one week, but rather everyone being aware of their surrounds, how they’re interacting with them, and what they’re buying.

“To heal Country is to be aware of what we do. To know what it is you’re buying and using. If you can, buy some carbon credits to look out for your carbon footprint.

“We are Country. Country is us. Without Country, we don’t exist.”

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