SARAH FROST- RIDGEWAY and MELINDA HARPER - MURNONG MAMMAS
I was born in Newcastle, New South Wales. I come from the Warimi tribe. My grandfather was the elder of seven tribes in the area, which was acknowledged by white fellas in 1956.
I spent the first three months of my life in a hospital before being adopted by a Canadian couple, who took me home to Scarborough, not far from Toronto. When I was three years old, my father got a job with Chamberlain, who make John Deer tractors, and we moved to Perth in Western Australia. I grew up a few minutes from the beach.
A couple of friends and I were going to start a dirt bike business here. The idea fell through but I stayed in Castlemaine. Later, I discovered that the women from the Warimi tribe used to walk from Newcastle to Moonlight Flat once a year to get fertile. I commuted to Melbourne for a while, working in the HR department of the Faculty of Business and Economics at Melbourne University.
My mother was a great cook and having five kids, so I am I. The first thing I ever made was a rhubarb and meringue pie. A group of us decided to start Murnong Mamas to provide meaningful employment for Indigenous women in the area, especially those with older kids. We have a pop-up kitchen at Continuing Education on the last Thursday of every month and we provide catering to a few different groups in the area.
On our first pop-up day people were stunned that Indigenous food could be healthy and delicious. The menu is mainly vegetarian but every few months we put meat on the menu for the indigenous folks who ask, "Where's the meat?"
I grew up in Canberra and moved to Melbourne when I was seventeen. I'm not Indigenous but I have two Indigenous children. I'm an artist but I've worked in restaurants and catering for years.
The initial idea for the lunches came from Nalderun, a service that supports the Aboriginal community, run by Aboriginal people. I already knew Sarah and when they approached me about being involved I said, "Yes".
A lot of people expect traditional bush tucker, which is very expensive. The lunches are subsidised by Community Education but the catering side pays for itself. We use crocodile when the budget allows, and try to include ingredients like kangaroo and bush tomato. The lunches are getting very popular; we've had up to 65 people at a time. Lately people have started to book, which makes planning the menu a bit easier. We've grown through word of mouth but have definitely been more popular since the ABC did a feature on us.
The Murnong Mammas pop-up lunch is available on the last Thursday of every month at Continuing Education on Templeton Street, Castlemaine.