Mutton Fish

The surviving culture of Aboriginal people and abalone on the south coast of NSW

by Beryl Cruse, Liddy Stewart,

Mutton Fish is the story of the Aboriginal people of the south coast of New South Wales as told through the metaphor of Haliotis (mutton fish). Mutton fish or abalone is a subsistence food— easy to find and harvest, extremely rich in energy and accessible for as long as the beaches are freely open to all.

The people of the south coast of NSW have a long and complex relationship with the coastal environment; one that has nurtured them for thousands of years. Mutton Fish explores this relationship and the effects of the coastal resources being progressively restricted by European competition. It includes interviews with Indigenous people who have participated in the traditional as well as the modern fishing practices in the south coast of NSW. It also explains Indigenous cultural practice versus white law.

The book is generously illustrated and includes maps.

Book review

‘To most non-Aboriginal Australians, the mutton fish is known as abalone, a prized seafood delicacy. This book, which started life as a TAFE project, is an attempt by two Aboriginal women and their TAFE teacher to record an oral history of Aboriginal abalone fishing on the NSW South Coast.

The result is an interesting mix of oral history and research that provides an overview of the importance of the mutton fish in indigenous coastal cuisine over the past 20,000 years. The writers use extensive first-person accounts from local Aborigines to recall not only a history of the mollusc, but also to provided a sensitive account of the changing nature of coastal Aboriginal life from Wollongong to the Victorian border.

At times, the abalone story seems almost secondary to the fascinating picture of everyday Aboriginal life, particularly in the 1950s and 1960s.’

—Bruce Elder,Sydney Morning Herald, July 16-17, 2005

  • Aboriginal Studies Press; May 2005
  • ISBN 9780855755157
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF format
  • Title: Mutton Fish
  • Author: Beryl Cruse; Liddy Stewart; Sue Norman
  • Imprint: Aboriginal Studies Press