Food, food choice and nutrition promotion in a remote Australian Aboriginal community

Susan Colles, Elaine Maypilama, Julie Brimblecombe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Contemporary diets of Aboriginal people living in remote Australia are characterised by processed foods high in fat and sugar. Within the 'new' food system, evidence suggests many Aboriginal people understand food in their own terms but lack access to consumer information about store-purchased foods, and parents feel inadequate as role models. In a remote Australian Aboriginal community, purposive sampling identified adults who participated in semistructured interviews guided by food-based themes relating to the contemporary food system, parental guidance of children's food choice and channels through which people learn. Interpretive content analysis was used to identify salient themes. In discussions, people identified more closely with dietary qualities or patterns than nutrients, and valued a balanced, fresh diet that made them feel 'light'. People possessed basic knowledge of 'good' store foods, and wanted to increase familiarity and experience with foods in packets and cans through practical and social skills, especially cooking. Education about contemporary foods was obtained from key family role models and outside the home through community-based organisations, including school, rather than pamphlets and flip charts. Freedom of choice was a deeply held value; carers who challenged children's autonomy used strategic distraction, or sought healthier alternatives that did not wholly deny the child. Culturally safe approaches to information sharing and capacity building that contribute to the health and wellbeing of communities requires collaboration and shared responsibility between policy makers, primary healthcare agencies, wider community-based organisations and families.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)365-372
Number of pages8
JournalAustralian Journal of Primary Health
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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