A Kangaroo Tale

Text: Garry Benson
Photos: © Garry Benson 2008
Editor: Tracey Benson

It was during the video shoot for ‘Painting the Song’,  a documentary on the Kaltjiti (Pitjantjatjara) Artists of the Sand Dune Country in 2008, at Fregon, APY (Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara) Lands in Central Australia, that I first tasted Kangaroo tails.

 © Garry Benson 2008

© Garry Benson 2008

I’ve worked on the Ara Irititja database since 1989, but this shoot was different – a major exhibition of work of these artists was due to open in Adelaide and they needed a documentary and book. My work as cinematographer and photojournalist got me the gig – it helped that I have been initiated into some Watiku (men only) and Tjilpi (elders) Tjurkupa (dreamings).

 © Garry Benson 2008

© Garry Benson 2008

You may have heard of kangaroo tail stew, but chances are you have never eaten it. It’s a shame, as it is the most delectable part of the animal.

 © Garry Benson 2008

© Garry Benson 2008

The only places I have seen it sold have been in the Northern Territory and South Australia, in both cases near Aboriginal communities – where people have very well-informed preferences when it comes to kangaroo cuts (and buy tails with the skin on so that they can better cook them in the coals of a fire).

 © Garry Benson 2008

© Garry Benson 2008

Rather than hunt for the kangaroos, the Anangu of Central Australia prefer frozen kangaroo tails, skin and all. These shots were taken during the video shoot for ‘Painting the Song’, a documentary on the Kaltjiti (Pitjantjatjara) Artists of the Sand Dune Country in 2008.

 © Garry Benson 2008

© Garry Benson 2008

 

© Garry Benson 2008

© Garry Benson 2008

A kangaroo is in effect pentapedal (five-legged), using the tail like a limb while walking and a counterbalance while running – it is no meagre appendage. The alternative to buying a kangaroo tail is of course to go out and get one from a kangaroo yourself.

 © Garry Benson 2008

© Garry Benson 2008

But you are not allowed. If you own land you can probably get a permit to shoot some as a culling exercise and ‘pest control’, but these cannot be eaten and must be tagged and left to rot in the field. If you accidentally hit one with your car (as I did recently), you are not allowed to later cut the tail off and be ‘in possession of it’ – something that applies to all native fauna.

 © Garry Benson 2008

© Garry Benson 2008

And you cannot (except for some wallabies in Tasmania) hunt one.

 © Garry Benson 2008

© Garry Benson 2008

Alongside the government supported shooting of some one and a half million kangaroos a year, the world’s largest terrestrial wildlife harvest, it is illegal to take one for your own pot.

 © Garry Benson 2008

© Garry Benson 2008

But frozen kangaroo tails continue to be a major delicacy for the Anangu of the APY (Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara) Lands in Central Australia. I must admit I’d prefer a nice grass-fed Angus steak with all the trimmings – hard to find 500kms from *The Alice…

*Alice Springs

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About

Tracey M Benson is a lover of travel, having a diverse background as an artist, writer and researcher. Working with online environments since 1994, Tracey's experience includes providing digital media, web and social media solutions to government, non-profit, private industry and tertiary sectors. Tracey has made many contributions to TripAdvisor and is now concentrating on writing about her love of travel and many adventures.

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Posted in Cuisine, Photography, Travel

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