Poor environmental conditions and poor child health in remote Australian Aboriginal communities are a symptom of a disjuncture in the cultures of a disadvantaged (and only relatively recently enfranchised) minority population and a proportionally large, wealthy dominant immigrant population, problematic social policies and the legacy of colonialism. Developing effective health promotion interventions in this environment is a challenge. Taking an ecological approach, the objective of this study was to identify the key social, economic, cultural and environmental factors that contribute to poor hygiene in remote Aboriginal communities, and to determine approaches that will improve hygiene and reduce the burden of infection among children. The methods included a mix of quantitative and qualitative community-based studies and literature reviews. Study findings showed that a combination of crowding, non-functioning health hardware and poor standards of personal and domestic hygiene underlie the high burden of infection experienced by children. Also, models of health promotion drawn from developed and developing countries can be adapted for use in remote Australian Aboriginal community contexts. High levels of disadvantage in relation to social determinants of health underlie the problem of poor environmental conditions and poor child health in remote Australian Aboriginal communities. Measures need to be taken to address the immediate problems that impact on children's health - for example, by ensuring the availability of functional and adequate water and sanitation facilities - but these interventions are unlikely to have a major effect unless the underlying issues are also addressed.