Food Policies for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health 

The FoodPATH project aims to empower Aboriginal communities in Victoria determine the actions needed to promote healthier food environments in their local communities.

FoodPATH is the first project of its kind and will foster bold aspirations for the Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation (ACCO) sector, giving us a strong voice and the chance to bring about health and healing for future generations – so that the boorai can grow into healthy, connected, and strong people.

On this page you’ll find:

A word from one of the Artists

As a graphic illustrator, student and educator living and working on the unceded lands of the Boonwurrung and Wurundjeri peoples of the Kulin Nations, I pay my respect to Elders; past, present and emerging. Sovereignty has never been ceded.

Guided by VACCHO to deliver our graphic illustrations, Madison Connors (@yarli_creative), and I worked together to depict the experiences of a young boy and his Uncle, as they navigate their food environments.

It has been an immense privilege to work with VACCHO and alongside Maddy. Thank you VACCHO for this opportunity.

Always was, always will be, Aboriginal land.

Jacob Komesaroff (He/Him)

Graphic illustrator, student and educator

About the FoodPATH project

A ‘food environment’ shapes the way that we select, buy, and eat food. It is the physical, social, cultural, economic and policy conditions that influence the way we make food decisions. For example, food advertising, promotion, price, and accessibility (among other things) make up a food environment.

VACCHO and Deakin University have been funded by VicHealth to implement the FoodPATH project and answer the question:

What are considered acceptable and effective policy actions to improve food environments and nutrition in Victorian Aboriginal communities?

Why is this important to explore?

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, post colonisation living means adopting western values but having to fight to bring back cultural customs and ways of living to foster wellbeing. Pre colonisation, Aboriginal people lived off and cultivated this land in a sophisticated manner that meant they were free from the harm caused by drugs, alcohol, processed foods and European diseases. The soil was healthy and medicine was natural. Aboriginal people were fit, strong and healthy due to their lifestyles of hunting, gathering and eating only what was necessary for nourishment.

The current food environment has fostered unhealthy habits for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and all Australians, many years post colonisation. Urban planning decisions have meant that you will almost always see a fast-food chains on every corner in cities and some regional country towns.

Supermarket layouts are designed to attract young children to the sweets and sugary drinks which are at eye level and encourage impulse purchases of confectionary at the checkout.

Often without even realising, we are being influenced by our food environments and the sneaky marketing tactics used by companies that seek to profit off the sales of unhealthy food and sugary drinks.

It is a shared goal of many health professionals to make this notion of “out of sight out of mind” a reality in places where people gather, eat, share, work and play – and this means changing our current food environment.

“If a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower”

– Alexander Den Heijer

It is with this in mind that we can see, if we get this right for our First Peoples then we get this right for everyone.

Thank you to the six ACCOs involved in FoodPATH in 2022

  • Rumbalara Aboriginal Co-operative
  • Moogji Aboriginal Council
  • Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative
  • Njernda Aboriginal Co-operaite
  • Bendigo & District Aboriginal Co-operative

Across 12 half day workshops, we listened to Community’s views, concerns, and priorities regarding what actions are needed to improve food environments and nutrition outcomes, so that Mob can grow up healthy and deadly.

You can read about the workshops with Rumbalara here.

What’s next

VACCHO and Deakin University are working to develop ‘key themes’ based on what was heard during the Community workshops. These will be built into a consensus statement which will outline priority food policy actions to improve food environments and nutrition outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Victoria.

The consensus statement will be launched in 2023.

Ethics approval

This project will be carried out according to the Guidelines for Ethical Conduct in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research produced by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia.

Ethics approval has been granted by the Deakin University Human Research Ethics Committee.

Contact us for more information

If you’d like more information, please get in touch with the VACCHO Nutrition team by submitting this form.

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About the FoodPATH artwork

By Shakara Montalto, Gunditjmara woman

This artwork represents the significance of the whole tribe workings together as one, in the important task to gather food and water.

The two symbols sitting in the centre facing one another represent a man and the other, a woman. The circle in the middle of them represents them coming together, to work as a collective, to gather food to feed the entire tribe. The sitting symbols on the outer represents the whole tribe and the importance of everyone playing a role in either hunting, preparing or cooking food. The brown and orange colours represent the traditional Aboriginal land, which our people cared for and maintained, to ensure a healthy food supply, all year round for thousands of years. The curved paths have walking tracks which represent the tribe going out to look for bush tucker. The blue circles represent the rivers, oceans and waterholes and the importance of water for our people. Collecting, preparing and cooking food was such an crucial part of our tribes’ daily tasks. This ensured survival for many thousands of years, eating a nutritious well-balanced diet