Improving Aboriginal food security and diet

Project title: Improving Aboriginal food security and dietary intake: Approaches for remote and urban communities

Start date: February 2018

Estimated end date: June 2020

What is the issue?

Poor diet is a major contributor to the high levels of mortality and morbidity experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Australia. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience significant diet-related health inequities, such as higher rates of overweight/obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and infant malnutrition. More than 80% of this excess burden of chronic disease is preventable, with the largest proportion of this attributable to poor diet.

Many complex factors influence food insecurity and nutrition in Aboriginal communities, including distance to healthy food outlets, transport limitations, the high cost of food, ability to cook healthy meals and the time taken to shop and cook healthy food. Previous research at the Prevention Centre has shown that these problems exist both in urban as well as remote communities.

While influences on Aboriginal diet are undoubtedly complex, previous research in remote areas has demonstrated that it is possible to achieve rapid, sustained improvements in objective measures of food security, dietary intake, nutrition status, and other risk factors for chronic disease. However, successful approaches have not been widely translated into practice, and to date, nutrition has not been a focus of policy to address Indigenous disadvantage.

How is the project addressing the issue?

This project will be implemented in two phases. Phase one will focus on improving food security and nutrition among Aboriginal communities in remote areas with a focus on Mai Wiru stores in communities on the Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in South Australia. The second phase will focus on issues of food security and nutrition among urban Aboriginal communities, building on Prevention Centre research, and utilising the established research asset of SEARCH (the Study of Environment on Aboriginal Resilience and Child Health).

What are the expected outcomes?

The project plans to:

  • Identify the barriers and potential areas for whole-of-system interventions to improve food security in urban Aboriginal communities
  • Implement and evaluate the impact of interventions to improve food security and dietary intake in five remote Aboriginal communities
  • Develop a food security framework and strategic implementation plan to improve food security among urban and remote Aboriginal groups.

Relevance for practice

This project will demonstrate achievable, effective, low-cost, translatable, scalable and sustained ways of improving food security and diet in Aboriginal communities.

Image: Gina Lyons, Irrunytju WA. Photo by Suzanne Bryce, NPY Women’s Council.

Project lead

Professor Amanda Lee, Sax Institute

Project team

Ms Meron Lewis, Research Assistant

Ms Ella Parnell Harrison, Research Assistant

Ms Rhiannon Hutchinson, NPWYC Nutrition Project Officer

Mr Stephan Rainow, Nganampa Health

Ms Liza Balmer, NPY Women’s Council

Mr Dennis Bate, Mai Wiru Regional Stores Council

Mr David Schomburgk, Advisor to Mai Wiru Regional Stores Council

Mr Richie Scholz, Mai Wiru Regional Stores Council

Mr Robert Stevens, Mai Wiru Regional Stores Council

Mrs Inawantji Scales, NPY Women’s Council

Mr John Tregenza, Kutjara Consultants

Professor Paul Torzillo, Healthabitat and Medical Director of Nganampa Health Council

Research team

The research team also includes staff of the NPY Women’s Council’s Nutrition Program, three part-time research officers (data analysis, nutrition promotion and evaluation), local community members, and Associate Professor Sumithra Muthayya (SEARCH/Sax Institute).



Funding for this research has been provided from the Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF). The MRFF provides funding to support health and medical research and innovation, with the objective of improving the health and wellbeing of Australians. MRFF funding has been provided to The Australian Prevention Partnership Centre under the MRFF Boosting Preventive Health Research Program. Further information on the MRFF is available at