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Australian bush meat, wild meat or game are the terms for meat derived from animals of the wilderness of Australia. Aborigines have used these meat sources for tens of thousands of years. While the term bushmeat mostly refers to the meat of jungle animals illegally hunted in Africa, this article uses it for the traditional diet of indigenous Australian people and the modern use of Australian game meat. Meat constituted an important part of the Aboriginal diet. Depending on the region different mammals, birds and reptiles were hunted. Today some of the animals that were hunted for meat are endangered and protected. Examples are freshwater turtles, dugongs and flying foxes. Aboriginal people are excluded from protection laws and have the legal right to hunt native animals for their own consumption.

Mammals hunted for meat include all kangaroo and wallaby species, possums, bilbies and hopping mice, flying foxes as well as koalas and wombats. Reptiles that were eaten are turtles, several different snakes - especially pythons -, goannas, frogs and lizards. All sizes birds were hunted, from the large emu to ducks and swans, parrots, cockatoos and birds of prey. Aboriginal people living near the coast could also add Australian fish and seafood to their diet. Inland freshwater mussels were gathered and eaten. Insects were another important source of protein and fat (see also: edible insects of Australia). Especially caterpillars and grubs were gathered and eaten frequently.

Most Aboriginal tribes did not have cooking vessels and did not boil water. Meat was cooked directly on the fire, in the ashes or with hot stones in earth ovens.

Many Aborigines in rural communities still live at least partially in their traditional ways and hunt native animals. Today introduced animals that have escaped captivity and proliferate in the Australian bush are also hunted as bush meat. Examples are goat, boar, sheep and camel.

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Use of wild meat in modern bush food cuisine

Only few of the native animals mentioned above are still used in modern Australian kitchens. Popular and widely spread are only:

  • kangaroo,
  • crocodile and
  • emu.

Kangaroo meat especially is well liked and available in many supermarkets. It is low in fat and a healthy alternative to beef and pork. It is mostly sold as steaks and barbecued or short-fried. Kangaroo sausages and roasts are also available.

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