From gastro nullius to ‘nourishing terrain’: preliminary reflections on decolonising gastronomy in Australia

Dr Kelly Donati1

1William Angliss Institute, Melbourne, Australia


The doctrine of terra nullius renders the Australian landscape as a blank canvas on which colonial narratives of conquest are inscribed. Within its logic, British agricultural practices and capitalist concepts of private property were taken as markers of human civilisation. The territorial dispossession of people that accompanied terra nullius has been accompanied by gastro nullius—the denial of an Aboriginal gastronomy, or cultural schema for eating and living well. Building on Deborah Bird Rose’s articulation of country as a ‘nourishing terrain’ (1996), this paper suggests Indigenous notions of ‘country’ enable a radically relational gastronomy to come into view, a multispecied cosmopolitics of abundance, joy and care creatively enacted through song, dance, art, harvest, hunting and commensality. Through this lens, Aboriginal gastronomy emerges as a rich cosmology comprising people, spirits, animals, plants and elements that sets out ethical and aesthetic parameters for good eating and the good life. This reframing of gastronomy is potentially generative for recognising the profound losses of colonial dispossession, but also acknowledging the ongoing pleasures experienced through the social and metabolic relations of country that have nourished Indigenous communities for millennia and from which there is much to be learned about re-imagining the human within geographies of gastronomy.


Kelly Donati coordinates and lectures in the Bachelor of Food Studies and Master of Food Systems and Gastronomy at William Angliss Institute. Her doctoral research developed the concept of multispecies gastronomy which explores the convivial and lively co-productive collaborations between humans and nonhumans in small-scale farming practice. She has published in the areas of multispecies gastronomy, food studies pedagogy, sustainability and urban food systems and is founding Chair of Sustain: the Australian Food Network.

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