Conceptualisation, experiences and suggestions for improvement of food security amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents and carers in remote Australian communities

Sue Booth, Caroline Deen, Kani Thompson, Sue Kleve, Ellie Chan, Leisa McCarthy, Emma Kraft, Bronwyn Fredericks, Julie Brimblecombe, Megan Ferguson

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Abstract

This study aimed to determine perceptions of the lived experience of food insecurity and suggestions to improve food security in four remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory, and Queensland. Participants were Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander pregnant and breastfeeding women, and parents/carers of children aged six months to five years. Semi-structured interviews (n=17) were conducted between June–July 2021 and the data thematically analysed using a four stage process. No specific term was used by participants to describe being either food secure or insecure. Descriptions of food security were centred in food sharing, food sufficiency, and family activities. Elements describing food insecurity were physical pain and emotional stress, adults going without food, seeking family help and managing without food until payday. Factors contributing to food insecurity were reported to be: (i) Low income and unemployment, (ii) Cost of living remotely, (iii) Resource sharing, and (iv) Impact of spending on harmful commodities and activities. Three themes were conceptualised: (1) Cultural practices buffer food insecurity, (2) Coping with food insecurity, (3) People accept a degree of food insecurity as normal. Findings suggest Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural practices such as sharing food buffer episodic food insecurity and constitute ‘cultural food security’. Despite use of cultural practices (e.g., procuring traditional food) and generic coping strategies, regular episodes of food insecurity often aligned with the off week of social assistance payments. Household energy (electricity) security was coupled to food security. Suggestions for improving food security included better transport and food access, extending electricity rebates, increases in the regularity of social assistance payments, and computer access and training in budgeting. Policies to advance food security should embody deeper Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descriptions and experiences. Community-derived policy suggestions which aim to increase access to adequate, regular, stable household income are likely to succeed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number115726
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Volume320
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023

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