While the Commonwealth Government is preparing their response to the recent Inquiry Report on Food pricing and food security in remote Indigenous communities, Miwatj communities in East Arnhem Land continue to experience the impact of food insecurity. To bring awareness to this reality and to bring focus to the underlying issues, the Board of Miwatj Health have approved a Position Statement on Food Security in East Arnhem Land.
The Statement calls for a cross-sectoral commitment to address the social determinants of food security and resulting nutrition practice in East Arnhem Land. This means increased investment in housing and focusing on job-creating strategies. It means increasing access to traditional bush foods through increased funding and flexible funding arrangements for bush food programs.
Miwatj Health CEO, Eddie Mulholland, says, ‘Access to bush foods is becoming more challenging for communities. Before the missions, Yolŋu were living on their homelands and had greater access to traditional foods. The growing population in communities mean that people now have to travel further than ever to hunt and gather bush foods.’
Decision making must be community-led in order for services and service provision to meet the priorities of our communities. A fiscal approach to food security is needed; this means exploring community-led, large-scale local food production and other initiatives to address food affordability and address the high cost of living.
Eddie Mulholland explains, ‘The reality about food security is that, as well as the high cost of food in community stores, a lack of financial literacy in our region can leave Yolŋu without enough money to buy food for their families. The Miwatj region has among the highest rates of smoking in the country, which is also impacting food security.’
Increasing support to remote stores, strengthening the nutrition workforce and providing comprehensive monitoring of food prices will all support a comprehensive, collaborative approach to improving food security in the East Arnhem region.
Miwatj is committed to addressing the social determinants of health in the East Arnhem region. In 2020, it developed its first organisational Food Security and Nutrition Strategy aimed at improving health outcomes for Yolŋu living in East Arnhem by working to reduce barriers to food security, food supply and food access in order to empower Yolŋu to take ownership of their nutritional health. This will be achieved through health promotion, advocacy initiatives and collaboration with regional stakeholders.
Miwatj calls on the Australian and Northern Territory Governments to make a real commitment to address food insecurity in remote Indigenous communities. This means committing funding and resources to develop, implement and evaluate a strategy for food security and nutrition for remote First Nations communities that directly addresses the social determinants of health.
For more information, the full Food Security Position Statement and the Miwatj Health Food Security and Nutrition Strategy can be found at https://www.miwatj.com.au/publications.
For media enquiries please contact CEO, Eddie Mulholland on (08) 8939 1900.