Australia

Food security gulf opening up in indigenous Australia

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Food security gulf opening up in indigenous Australia

Related tags: Australia

New data has revealed an alarming rate of food shortages among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

More than one in five Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders live in a household that had run out of food and were unable to buy more, according to a study by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The data, from the ABS Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey, reveals this is six times that of non-Indigenous people.

The report shows that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in remote areas were more likely than those in non-remote areas to be living in a household that had run out of food and couldn’t afford to buy more—31% compared with 20%.

Australian Red Cross, the Dietitians Association of Australia and the Public Health Association of Australia have joined forces to express deep concern at the figures and what this means for the health and wellbeing of individuals, families and communities across Australia.

These findings are concerning and match the growing concerns from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff in Red Cross working in partnership with their communities and as such are in touch with this growing problem. It confirms it’s a complex issue that we must face together for any chance to effectively close the gap​,” said Melissa Gibson of the Australian Red Cross.

Claire Hewat, CEO of the Dietitians Association of Australia, said the results were worrying.

While this ABS data shows the average overall energy, or kilojoule, intake for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women appears to fall within normal levels, we’re concerned about the diet quality​.

“For instance, this data shows that fruit and vegetable intake is lower in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and discretionary foods and drinks—those with very little nutritional value—make up 41% of total energy intake.”

PHAA chief executive Michael Moore said the data showed that food insecurity is dependent on where you live in Australia.

This is staggering evidence of food inequity in Australia​,” he said. “Australians who are most likely to suffer food insecurity are low income earners, the underemployed, less educated and people living in remote areas. In a country as rich as Australia these results are unacceptable​.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders would traditionally source local food that was extremely high in nutritional value. 

This was then significantly disrupted by white settlement and continues to be, with unacceptable results that contribute to the gap in health, social and other outcomes​,” Moore added.

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