By JULIUS DENNIS
“Decolonising” the diet of people in Central Australia, particularly of the Indigenous community, is a promising way to improve health.
That view was put to a new group by Roxanne Highfold and Walbira Murray, both of whom have worked extensively in the Indigenous health sector.
Ms Highfold said one in four Aboriginal Australians between the ages of two and 17 are obese, as a clear indicator (among many) that the nutritional value of highly processed foods with high sugar and fat content, particularly fast food (what she refers to as “fake foods”), are ruining the health of a large segment of our Central Australian society.
Without education on the nutritional value of foods and how to shop in a healthy manner, she says this is unlikely to change.
“There’s an epidemic going on,” she said.
Ms Murray chimed in to suggest that “if the government were truly serious about closing the gap, it would not be possible to get KFC or Maccas with a Basics Card.”
Another idea proffered was how simple it would be for the government to subsidise the cost of fruit and vegetables in remote communities, where store prices can often make healthy choices even harder.
The group, the Alice Springs Community Health Forum, is the brainchild of Marilyn Kleemann (pictured), and will meet monthly at the Alice Springs YMCA, featuring speakers and guests in a casual and interactive setting.
Ms Kleemann drew inspiration for the program from a similar idea in Toowoomba, where she lived previously, but says that it is especially needed here in Alice.
“There’s a lot of illness and trauma in this town, and there’s lots of different sorts of agencies that cater to certain things,” she says.
“So I just wanted to kind of bring to people’s awareness different ways of healing, and bring the facilitators of the healing into a forum where people can meet them and just have a bit of a discussion.
“To be perfectly honest, I would have been happy with just 10 people if they wanted to come, if that’s all I could get by tonight,” said Ms Kleemann prior to the event.
Which is lucky, because while thirty people RSPVed to the event, only ten, all women, showed, making for an intimate and open event that brought a warm energy to a freezing cold air conditioned room at the YMCA.
Towards the end of the evening, the talk turned to ways of living frugally and sustainably.
“Not only does my bank account grow, but my footprint shrinks,” said Ms Murray of finding ways to reduce her spending and make a positive impact on the environment.
Some tactics noted ranged from making her own cleaning products and growing food at home, to finding cheaper ways to shop.
Most of all, Ms Murray says it is about a change of mindset.
“Banking memories, that’s where I’m rich.”
As the night drew to a close, the audience started bringing up ideas to make changes in their own lifestyles, fulfilling a major goal for the event.
At the beginning of the night, Ms Kleemann said that “if me and my guests can only connect with one person, then we’ve made a difference.
“And that person may change the way they view either their life or their health or, you know, make their health and themselves more of a priority.
“When we heal ourselves, we’re healing the planet — we’re healing the earth.
“So, by being more mindful of our own health and our own self-care, and being aware about the impact that we actually have on other people and on our physical environment, then that is helping Mother Earth.”