Rose de Jong shares vision for Yandharra on International Women's Day in Forbes

What better time than International Women's Day could there be to hear of a passionate Wiradjuri woman's vision for a venture that will help us connect and share culture right here in Forbes?

At Tuesday's Forbes Business Chamber breakfast, Rose de Jong shared her journey to learn about and connect with her Aboriginal heritage, and her vision to help others do the same.

That vision is Yandharra, a social enterprise business that will bring together a culinary cultural hub here in Forbes.

"Yandharra means eat together, in local Wiradjuri language, and it aims to offer culinary experiences that highlight local Wiradjuri history, cuisine and culture," Rose shared.

The concept has been inspired by Rose's own journey, and by her travels.

In Europe she was impacted by how many thousands of people visited historic landmarks a few thousands of years old ... and couldn't help reflect that Australia's 65,000-plus years of living culture is yet to attract the same awe, engagement and pride.

In South East Asia she loved walking food tours, seeing family come together to cook to cook and share food.

"I think there is so much to be learned about a country's culture and history through their food and hospitality, and I want to capture this with Yandharra," Rose said.

"I thought more about my life experiences, and some of the things I love doing, things that I am passionate about. I started to learn a little bit about the native food industry and tasting some of the amazing bush tucker that we have."

So came the concept of Yandharra.

Rose, who now lives in Victoria and has already had a busy and successful career in government.

In 2018 she was selected for the year-long Joan Kirner young and emerging women leaders program; in 2019 she led her team to bringing $12.3 million investment in two Aboriginal communities; in 2020 as the only female and rookie in an all-male executive team she was awarded the Aboriginal Victoria leadership award.

Now she's working part time and has enrolled in more study to continue to learn about her Indigenous heritage as she and her partner formulate the business plan for Yandharra.

"Hopefully from next year we will start Yandharra, and we will be eating those delicious foods and selling those amazing first nations bush food products," she said.

They'll then look at expanding to cultural experiences, such as opportunities for wild foraging and cooking classes, with a longer term vision to grow native foods and offer traineeships in horticulture and hospitality.

It will involve job opportunities for chefs, managers, and hospitality staff - and ongoing consultation with the local community.

On International Women's Day, she called on everyone to look at how they can break the bias - this year's theme - and one of those was to try native foods from Aboriginal-owned businesses.

"Instead of salt, try saltbush; instead of pepper try native pepper berry and leaf; instead of thyme try native thyme," she suggested - outlining health benefits for each.

"Experiment with wattle seed. By starting to do this we can all have an impact on the native food industry."