The struggle for good health and nutrition continues for our Indigenous Australians in the top end. The Garma Festival in far East Arnhem Land promotes a vision to have the same level of health and wellbeing for indigenous people as it is for our non Indigenous. The Yothu Yindi Foundation (est from my own home town in Nhulunbuy), host the Garma event to the entire nation and I wish to share this today to create awareness for improved health systems for the indigenous community that fosters their traditional cultural ways. I have experienced the severity of the health and nutrition deficiencies first hand when growing up with and working with Yolngu people in the community that I lived and later within the indigenous school for children with special needs.
Majority of the issues were related to severe gut disorders and digestive illness and many children were often frequently sick due to a compromised immune system. This was brought about after a dramatic change to their diet was introduced without the proper education when the mining town was established. Fast food and money to compensate for the borrowed land mining rights had a severe impact on their health and nutrition.
Yolngu people have since been striving for the return of traditional hunting and gathering practices which where once fostered in their community as a whole and this is where we would all benefit from learning if given the opportunity in today's industrial world. Fish was a staple in their diet for generations and it was sad to see this so quickly replaced for many of the children in canteen lines to get their fast food lunch containing fried processed food.
From bush berries to root nuts found at the end of reeds found in lagoons, raw turtle eggs and witchetty grubs and ants, these are all foods that I had tried on the porch of my Yolgnu family friends homes. This was often coupled with cut strands from my hair to which they used to paint didgeridoo artwork made out of clay paint. What a wealth of experience I was blessed with in growing up in East Arnhem Land. I am proud to have grown up in this town and to have known and worked alongside Mandawuy Yinupingu's wife Yalmay in her classroom which enriched my understanding of Yolngu culture and their traditional ways of hunting and eating which fortunately has not been completely lost.