Our First Nation’s people respected the land and utilised its natural resources whether it be for food, shelter or medicine as they relied upon the earth to provide their total existence. They understood regeneration, and when harvesting yams which were part of their staple diet in almost every region of Australia, they were seen to only cut off the outer part of the yam so the part remaining under the soil would regrow their crop, so they had a perpetual food supply.
They also collected local seeds and would swap them with other tribes (mobs) from other regions so they could propagate these seeds and particular types of plants would then grow in areas that were not native to that particular species. Even though their agriculture may have seemed rather primitive, they were at one with nature. Despite the isolation of an island nation such as Australia, Aboriginals used techniques the same as farmers on other continents such as slashing and burning to increase the nutrient density of their farming lands.
An important plant that was discovered here by our First Nation’s people was the Hemp plant. Aboriginals nurtured it and used it as a source of food, medicine and building material. This was long before Australian Hemp Oil had even been thought of. This Hemp plant was a different strain to the one introduced later by the Europeans, and existed long before they arrived. It has been documented that the Hemp plant was grown in ancient Mesopotamia, present-day Turkey in 8.000BC. as well as in China and India. Through the middle ages, explorers and sea traders used hemp fibre for rope and sails. The fibre gained indispensable value as a commodity for trade and development around the world.
The Hemp Plant in Australia – the Brits arrive!
North America declared independence from Britain after the American revolution, taking back 13 American colonies that all farmed Hemp. Throughout this era, being the Age of Sail, Hemp was as critical to commerce, warfare and exploration as oil is to us now. As Britain had lost its Hemp supply chain in America, it was desperate to develop other supply chains, and Australia and India were both very attractive alternatives. Sir Joseph Banks was not only a very keen botanist but a huge supporter of Hemp, and was spearheading Britain’s Hemp Trade Policies. His vision was to develop a ‘Hemp Colony’ in Australia to supply British Naval Fleets with fibre for ropes and sails.
In 1788, Sir Joseph Banks ordered Hemp seeds to land in Australia along with the prisoners on the First Fleet. To promote hemp cultivation here, seeds were gifted to all new settlers. The plant fibre was used in food, textiles, paper and building material.
When did Australia Stop Growing Hemp?
The old adage ‘follow the money’ rings true within the Hemp industry. At the onset of new industries with massive financial backing such as cotton, coal and petrochemical industries, by-products such nylon and plastic began to be produced, leading to a decreased dependency on hemp. Hemp was seen as too much competition.
In an inconvenient turn of events, Richard Nixon’s catch-cry became the ‘war on drugs’ which saw America prohibit the entire Cannabis plant with the claim that it was a ‘drug menace’. After that, countries trading with them were obligated to ban it as well to maintain their commercial relationships. Australia’s reliance upon the US gave it no choice, hence ceasing all hemp cultivation. In the year 1937, Australia made hemp a prohibited substance and criminalised its cultivation.
In 1998, the Australian government allowed approved farmers to start producing hemp. There are very few licensed and regulated hemp growers & suppliers throughout Australia and New Zealand from which you can legally buy hemp extract oil. On the 12th November 2017 the Australian and New Zealand Food Standards Code was amended which legalised Hemp Seeds. It was conceded that they were classified as food and safe for human consumption. This has paved the way for an influx of highly nutritious Australian Hemp based foods, as well as Australian Hemp Oil onto the market – both available here in Australia and also for export where the Australian Hemp Industry and Australian Hemp Oil is gaining traction.