Celebrity chef visits Brungle for NAIDOC Week

Chef Mark ‘Black’ Olive prepared a three-course luncheon in Brungle and stayed behind afterwards to sign copies of his book and take photos with people.

Celebrity chef Mark ‘Black’ Olive visited Brungle on Saturday during a NAIDOC Week celebration at the Bush Tucker Garden and Yarning Circle, wrapping up the various NAIDOC events that took place during the week.

NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia each July to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples; however, this year the celebrations had to be postponed until November due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The celebrations in Brungle kicked off at 10am on what was a beautiful, sunny Saturday. A variety of stallholders sold their wares at a market, with some people based in Brungle and others with ties to the area travelling from Goulburn and Sydney. 

Trish Whitburn, an Aboriginal Engagement Coordinator with TAFE NSW, was also at the market to discuss various programs on offer at the local TAFE.

She was pleased to report that of the 13 students who enrolled in this year’s IPROWD program in Tumut – which supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to join the NSW Police Force – 12 graduated. The program will be offered again next year.

The Penrith Family at the markets at Brungle on Saturday, which were a huge hit, featuring a range of local vendors and people who had travelled from further away.

The Penrith family also had a stall at the markets, selling NAIDOC Week themed apparel featuring artwork by Luke Penrith. Clothing was available in a range of sizes, and people could be spotted all day wearing his designs.

A smoking ceremony took place, with a Welcome to Country spoken by Aunty Sony Piper and Rebecca, who spoke in Wiradjuri. She acknowledged the Wiradjuri people and paid respects to the Elders.

Aunty Sony Piper, who is the Chairperson of the Brungle Community Health Centre, said she was very pleased with the turnout for the event and the weather.

“We were very excited to have someone as famous as Mark ‘Black’ Olive coming here to our little village,” she said.

A Welcome to Country was spoken by Aunty Sony Piper and Rebecca, who spoke in Wiradjuri.

Reflecting on NAIDOC Week, she said that it “means a lot” to her, especially this year’s theme of ‘Always was, Always will be.’

“And to know that we’re proud these days to be able to say that, because we were shy and didn’t have a say in telling people things, but now we can say what we can and be proud of who we are,” she said.

“It’s the week for celebrating.”

After everyone walked through the smoke at the ceremony, they were seated in the shade for a three-course lunch prepared by Mark Olive, known as ‘The Black Olive.’

Mr Olive is one of Australia’s most celebrated and renowned Indigenous chefs, having been cooking for over 30 years. He hosts cooking, lifestyle and travel shows, with his series The Outback Cafe televised across the world.

Mr Olive is a Bundjalung man and incorporates native and Indigenous Australian ingredients with contemporary cooking techniques in his meals.

The first course was a Tapas plate including olives seeped in a local merlot and aniseed myrtle, sun dried and bush tomatoes, and vegetables pickled with chardonnay, vinegar, lemon juice, lemon myrtle and native peppers. It also featured local cheeses and pita bread.

For the main, people could choose between a barramundi on mash with herbs, a local beef fillet with pepper berry sauce on roasted potato, and lemon myrtle chicken with a salad.

The lunch finished off with a pavlova for dessert, covered in wattle seed cream and topped with strawberries, blueberries and strawberry gum.

As well as being able to enjoy a delicious meal, Mr Olive said the luncheon acted as “a bit of an experience.”

“They all sit down and it’s great to sit there and talk to people, because they were sitting there talking about what was in the dishes which was really nice,” he said.

“That’s where a lot of people come together and I find that conflict resolution really should be done over a dinner table, because everybody’s got to eat.

“It’s a great tool to bring everybody together, food, and that’s why I love being a chef and that’s why I love cooking and I love teaching kids.”

Chef Mark ‘Black’ Olive (top left) with assistant Mitch Hancock and students from the Clontarf program at Tumut High School.

During the preparation of the meals, Mr Olive was assisted by a number of students involved in the Clontarf program at Tumut High School. During the main course, he brought them to the front of the crowd to introduce themselves and receive a round of applause for their hard work.

“They really took it on board and they were just into it. Really, really impressive,” Mr Olive said of their assistance during the day.

“I’m on the other end of my career and I hope to pass on what I know, my knowledge onto these younger ones, which has been happening over the last 20-odd years now,” he said.

Mr Olive is from the Illawarra region, and although it was his first time in Brungle, he has connections to the broader Snowy Valleys area.

“My brother lived in Tumbarumba for a bit, I had friends that lived in Tumut, and it’s a beautiful little town,” he said.

Mr Olive said that NAIDOC Week is changing all the time, and with that change comes a development.

“As NAIDOC progresses, I think non-Indigenous people are starting to realise they have and should be really proud of what a unique culture we have and what we have to offer and what we can give, and when they do come to these events, they do find that Aboriginal people aren’t scary, they are approachable, they’re funny and we all like to just get along,” he said.

“Working with Aboriginal and non-Indigenous kids as well, it’s exciting and it brings a lot of those kids together too.”

Mr Olive didn’t confirm if he would return to Brungle again, but did hint, “If this does happen again, I’ve got something fabulous for next year,” with a laugh.

The day’s celebrations continued for a number of hours after the lunch event, and Mr Olive stayed behind to take photos with people and sign copies of his book.

The markets and lunch event were organised in a joint effort between the Brungle Health and Community Centre, INAC, Summit Aboriginal Services, Jaegers Event Hire, National Indigenous Australians Agency and Snowy Valleys Council.