“In many remote stores, it is still the case that water is more expensive than soft drink.
“In a lot of communities as soon as you walk in those community stores the first thing you see is a refrigerator full of Coke,” John Paterson (pictured above) from AMSANT the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT .
Thirty short films, written by people living in the communities, will be launched over the next two months.
A Darwin-based record company is using its connections with Indigenous musicians to spread health messages in remote communities. Thirty short films, written by people living in the communities, will be launched over the next two months.
Nigel Yunupingu stars in the film Sugar Man, which addresses excess sugar consumption in his community of Galiwin’ku on Elcho Island, off the coast of Arnhem Land. Skinnyfish Music co-founder Mark Grose says the films will be launched by the record label across the Northern Territory.
“I’ve got to say that all of the guys we’ve worked with are just natural actors, they just do such a great job,” he said. “Because it’s something that’s important to them.”
The films have been devised and written by people from Western Arnhem Land to Croker Island, with help from the record label and filmmaker Paul Williams. Mr Grose says every community has taken a different approach
. “So it’s really Aboriginal people speaking to Aboriginal people about a modern issue,” he said. “So I guess in a way, people aren’t being lectured to, they don’t have an expert or a doctor coming in saying this is what you have to do.” The overall message is “get active, eat bush tucker and live longer”.
Soft drinks cheaper than water
Photo above recent health promotion Burunga mob NT
Comedy, music and traditional knowledge are used to tackle serious health issues, including excess consumption of soft drinks. In August last year, remote retailer Outback Stores reported a drop in sugared soft drink sales for the first time.
But John Paterson from the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT says, in many remote stores, it is still the case that water is more expensive than soft drink.
“In a lot of communities as soon as you walk in those community stores the first thing you see is a refrigerator full of Coke,” he said. Mr Paterson says fruit, vegetables and other healthy food options are also too expensive in remote community stores. “Unfortunately I think there’s a huge reliance on the fast-food takeaway products, which is obviously contributing to obesity, diabetes and a whole range of other chronic illnesses,” he said
. “This is why we want to encourage those shop owners, those chain stores that have a presence in Aboriginal communities, to seriously consider what they stock in their stores and really consider the long-term implications.” Mr Paterson says community awareness is part of the problem but a government subsidy for stores could also be a solution. “We need them to either carry out appropriate negotiations with government to get that subsidy if that’s what it requires to get the much healthier products into those community stores,” he said.
Some communities focusing on return to bush tucker
Mr Paterson says a return to using bush tucker in meals is also a positive step. “When I visited my grandmother in her home communities, where they predominantly lived off bush tucker foods … they were a lot healthier,” he said.
“I know there are some communities now that are really focusing on returning to the consumption of bush tucker and utilising more bush tucker in their meals.”
Rates of diabetes and rheumatic heart disease are much higher among Australia’s Indigenous population. The need for regular medical check-ups and anti-smoking messages are also featured in the films. Those involved in the project hope to get the films into all remote health centres and schools across the Northern Territory.