The Bush Tucker Man back on the job


UPDATE (2019): The Bush Tucker Man has been seen – again. This time on ABC TV’s Landline, Sunday 4 August.


Earlier (2017)…

Soldiers and marines participating in Exercise Kowari in far north Queensland were given a culinary crash course for survival in the jungle by the man who literally wrote the Australian Army’s military survival manual (1987) – the original ‘Bush Tucker Man’, Major Les Hiddens (retd).

Major Hiddens served in the Army in Vietnam and was later tasked by the ADF to catalogue all of the edible plants in far north Queensland, which he did working with Aboriginal people from the area – who gave him the nickname “The Bush Tucker Man”.

In 1988, the ABC turned Major Hiddens’ research into a television show featuring him as the host and the aptly named show The Bush Tucker Man, with three seasons beamed into Australian homes.

The Bush Tucker Man retired Major Les Hiddins with Australian, US and Chinese soldiers and Marines. Photo by Leading Seaman Jake Baidor.
Retired Major Les Hiddins – the Bush Tucker Man – with Australian, US and Chinese soldiers and marines. Photo by Leading Seaman Jake Baidor.

Major Hiddens retired from the Army in 1989, but continued serving in the Army Reserve until 2001.

OC A Company, 51FNQR, Major Josh Mickle said bringing Major Hiddens into Exercise Kowari was a no-brainer.

“We have marines and soldiers from the United States, China and all over Australia here in Cairns to participate in Kowari – which has come to far north Queensland for the first time – and most of them don’t have any knowledge of the natural environment here, let alone what they could eat for survival if they needed to, and what could potentially kill them,” Major Mickle said.

“Les is a Cairns local and, given his history in the Army – including deployments in the jungles of Vietnam, as well as his extensive knowledge of bush tucker and far north Queensland – we thought he’d be the perfect person to give these troops a better understanding of the environment they are exercising in, and some tips on how they could survive up here if they had to find their own food.

“It’s not every day that you get to learn how to survive in the Australian bush from the man who wrote the book on it.”

In his Exercise Kowari classroom at the bottom of Josephine Falls, Major Hiddens taught the soldiers and marines where to find wild ginger, candle nut and yabbies in the rainforest, and told them how to catch jungle perch from freshwater streams using marsh flies as bait.

He also taught them about the hazards, including ‘wait-a-while’ vines and stinging plants.



After the bush tucker lesson, the troops set off on an overnight trek to the peak of Queensland’s tallest mountain, Mount Bartle Frere.

Trek guide Lieutenant Tarrant Green, of 51FNQR, said adventurous training was excellent for building trust between soldiers from different nations.

“Hiking up the tallest mountain in Queensland to an elevation of 1622m is challenging – even if you are a generally fit person.

“It takes people out of their comfort zones and makes them work together as a team to accomplish the task, which in-turn promotes unity and builds trust and resilience,” Lieutenant Green said.




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Brian Hartigan

Managing Editor Contact Publishing Pty Ltd PO Box 3091 Minnamurra NSW 2533 AUSTRALIA

10 thoughts on “The Bush Tucker Man back on the job

  • 04/08/2019 at 1:57 pm

    Hi Les,

    Just saw you one Landline. Good to you still in the land of the living,
    Tom Parry Saddlers Townsville

  • 29/06/2019 at 11:04 pm

    I knew 2Lt Les Higgens in 2 RAR when he and an another painted pink an Apc and left it on the parade ground.

  • 22/08/2018 at 5:58 pm

    I’ve seen this mentioned anywhere, but does anyone know what cameras the Bush Tucker Man was filmed using?

    • 24/05/2019 at 4:10 pm

      Lea Hiddens was and still a great hero of mine , his programs were incredibly fascinating and informative, even for an expat yank living in London in the 80s I will never forget Les , and always remember his fantastic programs with love and nostalgia .God bless ye cobber!

  • 13/02/2018 at 11:53 am

    Hi Brian,

    I am hoping to get in touch with Les for a multitude of reasons, with number one being I am a huge fan of his TV series, as well as research into all things bush tucker and bush survival. Would you be able to point me in the right direction for making contact with Les?

    Cheers, Jimbo

    • 13/02/2018 at 12:50 pm

      Hi James. I think the most appropriate method would be to write to
      Despite the ‘media’ in the name, that is also the general public-enquiries address.
      I think the best line of enquiry would be to say, ‘please pass on my contact details to Les, for theses reasons, and ask him to contact me, if he sees fit’ – or words to that effect.
      In my humble opinion, ‘being a huge fan’ should not be your number one reason. He’s got thousands of those 😉
      Cheers, Brian.

  • 01/01/2018 at 8:49 pm

    Hi There,
    I’ve been a fan of (Major) Les Hiddens since his ABC programs in the mid 90’s….
    Re-watching his programs again on DVD can you help with any information on the “Dutch Settlement” he was trying to find some evidence of, around the early 18th century located in Northern Australia? This story was aired during his first series on the ABC back in 1996, episode 4…….titled ‘The Dutch Settlement’.
    Or if possible can I contact him via email? Thanks for your help with this query…..?
    Regards Brendan Pudney.

    • 01/01/2018 at 9:04 pm

      Hi Brendan. I’m not sure what your actual question is.
      That episode of the Bush Tucker Man is on YouTube, here –
      But, as far as the Dutch being in Australia way back when – I didn’t think there was any doubt about that. A quick search on Google throws up plenty of evidence.
      You could try asking Defence via – but, be very clear in what you ask them (they will only answer specific questions), and, don’t bother until about mid January – there’s only a skeleton crew on duty at this time of year.
      I hope that helps.
      Brian Hartigan
      CONTACT Editor

  • 24/09/2017 at 9:31 am

    did he write a book on the Bush Tucker? former RAN POEP

    • 24/09/2017 at 9:37 am

      According to Wikipedia, he wrote four bush-tucker books and four children’ books. You can find them on eBay too.


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