Les Hiddins aka "The Bush Tucker Man" is a retired Australian Army soldier and war veteran, who is best known for his love and knowledge of the Australian bush.
As a soldier with the Australian Army, Hiddins did two deployments in South Vietnam between 1966 and 1968, the first as a forward scout in the infantry. In 1987, he was awarded a Defence Fellowship to research survival in northern Australia. Major Hiddins produced a series of "snack maps" issued to soldiers on exercise, detailing edible plants and those that are useful as natural medicines. He is also the main author of the Australian army's Combat Survival Manual (1987) and was awarded Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 1987.
Hiddin's research for the Army's Survival manual turned into the TV series The Bush Tucker Man. The series involves Hiddins driving around in a Land Rover Perentie, then in later episodes a County 110 with his trademark hat, finding and describing native Australian bush food or "bush tucker".
Hiddins appeared in two ABC TV series of 'Bush Tucker Man', and the series 'Bush Tucker Man – Stories of Survival'. He also appeared in the TV documentaries Pandora – in the Wake of the Bounty and The Batavia. His other publications are
- Bush Tucker Man - Stories of Exploration and Survival (1996),
- Bush Tucker Man – Tarnished Heroes (1997),
- Explore Wild Australia with the Bush Tucker Man (1999),
- Bush Tucker Fieldguide (2002).
In 2000 Hiddins published four books specifically for children...
- The Coral Coast,
- The Top End,
- The Tropical Rainforest, and
- The Living Desert.
He has released two CD-ROMs,
- From the Rainforest to Cape York Peninsula, and
- From Arnhem Land to the Kimberley Ranges.
The National Museum of Australia in Canberra has a Bush Tucker Man display with some of his original bush gear.
As part of this research, Hiddins was introduced to the Kakadu plum (Terminalia ferdinandiana) by the Aborigines, who had used the plant for thousands of years. He sent the fruit to be analysed, and it was found to have the highest concentration of Vitamin C of any known natural substance in the world.
Hiddins retired from the Australian Regular Army (ARA) in 1989 with the rank of Major but continued to serve with the Army Reserve (ARES) until 2001, working with Indigenous Australian communities in northern Australia.
Hiddins and the Chain of Ponds Winery released the distinctive Bush Tucker Man wines in 2002.
- Bush Tucker Man Pudding Pan Hill Chardonnay 2002 - Displays ripe, intense fruit flavours of fig, melon and tropical fruits with a hint of cashew, grapefruit and spice. A well-balanced wine with good complexity and lingering flavours.
- Bush Tucker Man Bloodwood Tree Shiraz 2001 - The palate shows nice intensity and balance and good tannins supporting nice fruit richness. This wine featured as one of the Top 100 Wines of 2003 at the Sydney International Wine Competition.
Since 2001, Hiddins has been at the forefront of establishing wilderness retreats for war Veterans. "Pandanus Park", the flagship for these retreats, is a parcel of Normanby River frontage on "Kalpowar Station", adjoining Lakefield National Park in Cape York Peninsula.
A GROUP of Australia's Vietnam veterans, led by an Outback survival specialist known as the Bush Tucker Man, has set up an illegal camp in northern Australia.
Their retreat, which they have codenamed Project Pandanus, is the brainchild of Major Les Hiddins, who served two tours of duty in Vietnam and rose to fame in the 1980s as the presenter of a television series called The Bush Tucker Man.
The programme, which was screened in Britain, followed Major Hiddins travelling around Australia's remotest areas demonstrating the delights of "bush tucker" - food found growing naturally in the wild.
On 28 March 2008, Hiddins was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Science by James Cook University's Faculty of Science, Engineering and Information Technology...
"in recognition for his outstanding and distinguished contribution to Australia and the northern Queensland community through his work on the ABC TV series Bush Tucker Man, his time in the defence force (including two tours of duty) where he worked with indigenous communities and establishing a bush retreat in Cape York for Vietnam veterans to enjoy."