Aboriginal Health #CoronaVirus #Nutrition News Alert No 69 : May 22 #KeepOurMobSafe #OurJobProtectOurMob : The #COVID19 pandemic has a silver lining with possible solutions to food affordability and availability in remote communities

Part 2 AIG Press Release

Originally published HERE

We know prices are too expensive in Aboriginal community stores around the NT. To prove the point however, we went shopping. The results from our Market Basket survey will shock you.

In April and May, 2020 our shoppers went into 9 stores in the Top End with the same shopping list made up of essential and popular products.

Shopping list:

  • Mi Goreng Fried Noodles 5pk
  • Weetbix 375g
  • Weetbix 575g
  • Deb Instant Potato Plain 115g
  • Bush Oven Bread 700g
  • Bushells tea bags rounds 200 pack
  • San Remo Spirals small No 15 500g
  • Palmolive soap gold 4pack
  • Colgate Toothpaste Maximum Floride Cool Mint 110g
  • Hazedenes Chicken Cuts 2kg Bag
  • Eggs Large Dozen 600g

And the results…..

Our key finding was the store managed by AIG has the cheapest prices for all products on the list – blue ribbon for us! For all the market basket results click here.

More importantly though, how is it possible that one store can charge almost $25 more for the same basket of products? Obviously, it’s because the prices are higher. The trickier and more important question to answer is why?

Lets just break it down a little, and look at chicken prices as an example of how prices influence food security.

Barunga store charges $9.40 for 2kg of Hazledene chicken cuts and Beswick store (which is run by the Commonwealth entity Outback Stores) charges $16.80. Its only 25km down the road! Another community store charges $24.60 for the same product.

Why the price difference?

There are three reasons why the prices are different between stores: rebates, ethics and freight.


A rebate is money paid by the supplier to store management stock their products. Our research shows rebates can range between 1.5 and 25%. Rebates are calculated on each product and the higher the rebate, the more expensive the product becomes. Coke and tobacco reap the highest rebates in community stores. Rebates are given to the store management groups, and not the stores themselves.

Rebate revenue is worth millions of dollars in the Northern Territory alone. Look for example at the Commonwealth owned Outback Stores which last year made more than $2.6 million in rebates https://outbackstores.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/OS-Annual-Report-19-web-spread.pdf through raising the cost of products in store. That is a lot of tobacco and Coke!

AIG does not accept rebates because we believe it is unethical and drives up prices in the store which further disadvantages the vulnerable and threatens food security.


Usually listed as the primary reason for high prices in community stores, but in reality, has a far lesser impact on the actual prices of products in the store.

Freight is the cost of getting the products from the supplier to the store. If a store is very remote, then the freight is obviously going to be more expensive. Freight should be cheaper for the larger management groups because they order in bulk which reduces the actual freight costs further.

AIG is a small store management group and if we can have low prices while paying freight, it is proof that freight is not as expensive as people are led to believe.

Keep comparing food prices

We want to disrupt how community stores are managed in the NT through creating transparency about prices in stores. Its hard for people in remote communities to understand the situation they are in if they can’t compare prices in their stores to other communities.

AIG has created online shopping for the Barunga and Timber Creek communities which is a great service, but equally important is being able to provide transparency the prices we charge so others can compare to the prices in their stores. We don’t accept rebates from suppliers, and we don’t make a profit on fruit and vegetables. This is how our prices are low. If we can do it, other stores can do the same.

Check out the store and the prices https://barunga-store.myshopify.com or https://wirib-store.myshopify.com/

Aboriginal #CoronaVirus News Alert No 42 : April 20 #KeepOurMobSafe : #OurJobProtectOurMob : No more time to waste”: 13 Aboriginal organisations including @AMSANTaus @CAACongress demand a guarantee of affordable goods for remote communities now

We urge the national cabinet to take action, before it is too late, because time is all remote Aboriginal communities have on their side in their fight against the virus. We are all affected by this crisis, some more than others when it comes to accessing affordable food.

We want preventative action. This is all about making sure remote Aboriginal people can depend 100% on their one community store as they are not in a position to shop around. We have no more time to waste.”

Central Australian Aboriginal Congress CEO Donna Ah Chee 

Photo above Outback Stores

A coalition of 13 Aboriginal organisations of the Northern Territory* want the national cabinet to immediately guarantee the supply of affordable food and other basics in locked-down remote communities.

Two weeks ago, the commonwealth and NT governments met with major supermarkets, suppliers and three major remote retailers, yet remote community owned stores are still waiting to hear about any government interventions that might flow from that meeting that will take the pressure off.

“We are getting daily reports of remote stores struggling to supply basic goods,” said John Paterson, the CEO of the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance of the NT.

“Some stores are running out of fresh food three days after their weekly delivery. Under COVID-19 travel restrictions small, community owned stores must suddenly meet 100% of people’s needs across a much greater range of products. Some stores have had to triple their usual orders.

“In recent weeks, the big supermarkets have responded to panic buying down south by sweeping up the bulk of goods from manufacturers and producers. Independent suppliers are struggling to get what they need for remote stores,” said John Paterson.

“We want an agreed proportion of these essential goods set aside for the independent suppliers. This can’t be solved through donated goods. It needs a systemic response from government. “

“Prices in remote community owned stores are also a big issue. This is borne out in every market basket survey. High freight costs and limited purchasing power mean prices can average 60% higher than at major supermarkets.

The coalition of health services, land councils and other Aboriginal organisations is calling for a 20 per cent point-of-sale subsidy of essential food, cleaning and hygiene products, as well as winter bedding and clothing in remote community stores.

“A direct consumer subsidy of selected items is the best way to guarantee that residents who are no longer able to shop around can afford the basics,” said Mr Paterson.

Community stores say invoicing the federal government for 20 per cent of their sales once a fortnight would place the least administrative burden on them.

“Already, remote community residents are taking backroads into regional centres to access essential and affordable supplies they can’t get at home. Towns are where they are most likely to contract coronavirus.”

“We understand fresh fruit, vegetables and meat are not in short supply in the southern states and distributers are actively planning to address current shortages in remote stores in central Australia. It is critically important that we understand how this will work, the CEO of the Central Land Council, Joe Martin-Jard, said.

“However, we believe subsidies on essential goods at point of sale coupled with a supply guarantee will make a huge difference.”

*The coalition includes the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance of the NT, Central Land Council, Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, NPY Women’s Council, North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency, Central Australian Aboriginal Alcohol Programmes, Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation, Waltja Aboriginal Corporation, Yeperenye Pty Ltd, Gap Youth Centre, Yipirinya School Council, Central Australian Aboriginal Family Legal Unit and Tangentyere Council.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #SugarTax #5Myths @ausoftheyear Dr James Muecke pushing for Scott Morrison’s government to enact a tax on sugary drinks : Money $ raised could be used to fund health promotion

” This year’s Australian of the Year, Dr James Muecke, is an eye specialist with a clear vision.

He wants to change the way the world looks at sugar and the debilitating consequences of diabetes, which include blindness.

Muecke is pushing for Scott Morrison’s government to enact a tax on sugary drinks to help make that a reality.

Such a tax would increase the price of soft drinks, juices and other sugary drinks by around 20%. The money raised could be used to fund health promotion programs around the country.

The evidence backing his calls is strong. ” 

From the Conversation

” A study of intake of six remote Aboriginal communities, based on store turnover, found that intake of energy, fat and sugar was excessive, with fatty meats making the largest contribution to fat intake.

Compared with national data, intake of sweet and carbonated beverages and sugar was much higher in these communities, with the proportion of energy derived from refined sugars approximately four times the recommended intake.

Recent evidence from Mexico indicates that implementing health-related taxes on sugary drinks and on ‘junk’ food can decrease purchase of these foods and drinks.

A recent Australian study predicted that increasing the price of sugary drinks by 20% could reduce consumption by 12.6%.

Revenue raised by such a measure could be directed to an evaluation of effectiveness and in the longer term be used to subsidise and market healthy food choices as well as promotion of physical activity.

It is imperative that all of these interventions to promote healthy eating should have community-ownership and not undermine the cultural importance of family social events, the role of Elders, or traditional preferences for some food.

Food supply in Indigenous communities needs to ensure healthy, good quality foods are available at affordable prices.” 

Extract from NACCHO Network Submission to the Select Committee’s Obesity Epidemic in Australia Inquiry. 

Download the full 15 Page submission HERE

Obesity Epidemic in Australia – Network Submission – 6.7.18

Also Read over 40 Aboriginal Health and Sugar Tax articles published by NACCHO 

Taxes on sugary drinks work

Several governments around the world have adopted taxes on sugary drinks in recent years. The evidence is clear: they work.

Last year, a summary of 17 studies found health taxes on sugary drinks implemented in Berkeley and other places in the United States, Mexico, Chile, France and Spain reduced both purchases and consumption of sugary drinks.

Reliable evidence from around the world tells us a 10% tax reduces sugary drink intakes by around 10%.

The United Kingdom soft drink tax has also been making headlines recently. Since its introduction, the amount of sugar in drinks has decreased by almost 30%, and six out of ten leading drink companies have dropped the sugar content of more than 50% of their drinks.

Read more: Sugary drinks tax is working – now it’s time to target cakes, biscuits and snacks

In Australia, modelling studies have shown a 20% health tax on sugary drinks is likely to save almost A$2 billion in healthcare costs over the lifetime of the population by preventing diet-related diseases like diabetes, heart disease and several cancers.

This is over and above the cost benefits of preventing dental health issues linked to consumption of sugary drinks.

Most of the health benefits (nearly 50%) would occur among those living in the lowest socioeconomic circumstances.

A 20% health tax on sugary drinks would also raise over A$600 million to invest back into the health of Australians.

After sugar taxes are introduced, people tend to switch from sugar drinks to other product lines, such as bottled water and artificially sweetened drinks. l i g h t p o e t/Shutterstock


So what’s the problem?

The soft drink industry uses every trick in the book to try to convince politicians a tax on sugary drinks is bad policy.

Here are our responses to some common arguments against these taxes:

Myth 1: Sugary drink taxes unfairly disadvantage the poor

It’s true people on lower incomes would feel the pinch from higher prices on sugary drinks. A 20% tax on sugary drinks in Australia would cost people from low socioeconomic households about A$35 extra per year. But this is just A$4 higher than the cost to the wealthiest households.

Importantly, poorer households are likely to get the biggest health benefits and long-term health care savings.

What’s more, the money raised from the tax could be targeted towards reducing health inequalities.

Read more: Australian sugary drinks tax could prevent thousands of heart attacks and strokes and save 1,600 lives

Myth 2: Sugary drink taxes would result in job losses

Multiple studies have shown no job losses resulted from taxes on sugar drinks in Mexico and the United States.

This is in contrast to some industry-sponsored studies that try to make the case otherwise.

In Australia, job losses from such a tax are likely to be minimal. The total demand for drinks by Australian manufacturers is unlikely to change substantially because consumers would likely switch from sugary drinks to other product lines, such as bottled water and artificially sweetened drinks.

A tax on sugary drinks is unlikely to cost jobs. Successo images/Shutterstock


Despite industry protestations, an Australian tax would have minimal impact on sugar farmers. This is because 80% of our locally grown sugar is exported. Only a small amount of Australian sugar goes to sugary drinks, and the expected 1% drop in demand would be traded elsewhere.

Myth 3: People don’t support health taxes on sugary drinks

There is widespread support for a tax on sugary drinks from major health and consumer groups in Australia.

In addition, a national survey conducted in 2017 showed 77% of Australians supported a tax on sugary drinks, if the proceeds were used to fund obesity prevention.

Myth 4: People will just swap to other unhealthy products, so a tax is useless

Taxes, or levies, can be designed to avoid substitution to unhealthy products by covering a broad range of sugary drink options, including soft drinks, energy drinks and sports drinks.

There is also evidence that shows people switch to water in response to sugary drinks taxes.

Read more: Sweet power: the politics of sugar, sugary drinks and poor nutrition in Australia

Myth 5: There’s no evidence sugary drink taxes reduce obesity or diabetes

Because of the multiple drivers of obesity, it’s difficult to isolate the impact of a single measure. Indeed, we need a comprehensive policy approach to address the problem. That’s why Dr Muecke is calling for a tax on sugary drinks alongside improved food labelling and marketing regulations.

Towards better food policies

The Morrison government has previously and repeatedly rejected pushes for a tax on sugary drinks.

But Australian governments are currently developing a National Obesity Strategy, making it the ideal time to revisit this issue.

We need to stop letting myths get in the way of evidence-backed health policies.

Let’s listen to Dr Muecke – he who knows all too well the devastating effects of products packed full of sugar.

NACCHO Aboriginal Children’s Health #BacktoSchool : What our kids eat can affect not only their physical health but also their mood, mental health and learning

“When kids eat a healthy diet with a wide variety of fruit and vegetables in that diet, they actually perform better in the classroom.​     

They’re going to have better stamina with their work, and at the end of the day it means we’ll get better learning results which will impact on them in the long term.”

Marlborough Primary School principal

We know that fuelling children with the appropriate foods helps support their growth and development.

But there is a growing body of research showing that what children eat can affect not only their physical health but also their mood, mental health and learning.

The research suggests that eating a healthy and nutritious diet can improve mental health¹, enhance cognitive skills like concentration and memory²‚³ and improve academic performance⁴.

In fact, young people that have the unhealthiest diets are nearly 80% more likely to have depression than those with the healthiest diets

Continued Part 1 Below

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people suffer increased risk of chronic disease such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Eating healthy food and being physically active lowers your risk of getting kidney disease and type 2 diabetes, and of dying young from heart disease and some cancers.

Being a healthy weight can also makes it easier for you to keep up with your family and look after the kids, nieces, nephews and grandkids. “

Continued Part 2 Below

Part 1

Children should be eating plenty of nutritious, minimally processed foods from the five food groups:

  1. fruit
  2. vegetables and legumes/beans
  3. grains (cereal foods)
  4. lean meat and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds, and legumes/beans
  5. milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or their alternatives.

Consuming too many nutritionally-poor foods and drinks that are high in added fats, sugars and salt, such as lollies, chips and fried foods has been connected to emotional and behavioural problems in children and adolescents⁵.

In fact, young people that have the unhealthiest diets are nearly 80% more likely to have depression than those with the healthiest diets¹.

Children learn from their parents and carers. If you want your children to eat well, set a good example. If you help them form healthy eating habits early, they’re more likely to stick with them for life.

So here are some good habits to start them on the right path.

Eat with your kids, as a family, without the distraction of the television. Children benefit from routines, so try to eat meals at regular times.

Make sure your kids eat breakfast too – it’s a good source of energy and nutrients to help them start the day. Good choices are high-fibre, low-sugar cereals or wholegrain toast. It’s also a good idea to prepare healthy snacks in advance for them to eat in between meals.

Encourage children to drink water or milk rather than soft drinks, cordial, sports drinks or fruit juice drinks – don’t keep these in the fridge or pantry.

Children over the age of two years can be given reduced fat milk, but children under the age of two years should be given full cream milk.

Why are schools an important place to make changes?

Schools can play a key role in influencing healthy eating habits, as students can consume on average 37% of their energy intake for the day during school hours alone!6

A New South Wales survey found that up to 72% of primary school students purchase foods and drinks from the canteen at least once a week7. Also, in Victoria, while around three-quarters (77%) of children meet the guidelines for recommended daily serves of fruit, only one in 25 (4%) meet the guidelines for recommended daily serves of vegetables8; and discretionary foods account for nearly 40 per cent of energy intake for Victorian children9.

It’s never too late to encourage healthier eating habits – childhood and adolescence is a key time to build lifelong habits and learn how to enjoy healthy eating.

Get started today

You can start to improve students’ learning outcomes and mental wellbeing by promoting healthy eating throughout your school environment.

Some ideas to get you started:

This blog article was originally published on Healthy Eating Advisory Service . 

Part 2

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people suffer increased risk of chronic disease such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Eating healthy food and being physically active lowers your risk of getting kidney disease and type 2 diabetes, and of dying young from heart disease and some cancers.

Being a healthy weight can also makes it easier for you to keep up with your family and look after the kids, nieces, nephews and grandkids.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people may find it useful to chose store foods that are most like traditional animal and plant bush foods – that is, low in saturated fat, added sugar and salt – and use traditional bush foods whenever possible.

The Healthy Weight Guide provides information about maintaining and achieving a healthy weight.

It tells you how to work out if you’re a healthy weight. It lets you know up-to-date information about what foods to eat and what foods to avoid and what and how much physical activity to do. It gives you tips on setting goalsmonitoring what you dogetting support and managing the challenges.

There are also tips on how to eat well if you live in rural and remote areas.

The national Live Longer! Local Community Campaigns Grants Program supports Indigenous communities to help their people to work towards and maintain healthy weights and lifestyles. For more information, see Live Longer!.

Part 3 Parents may not always realise that their children are not a healthy weight.

If you think your child is underweight, the following information will not apply to your situation and you should seek advice from a health professional for an assessment.

If you think your child is overweight you should see your health professional for an assessment. However, if you’re not sure whether your child is overweight, see if you recognise some of the signs below. If you are still not sure, see your health professional for advice.

Overweight children may experience some or all of the following:

  • Having to wear clothes that are too big for their age
  • Having rolls or skin folds around the waist
  • Snoring when they sleep
  • Saying they get teased about their weight
  • Difficulty participating in some physically active games and activities
  • Avoiding taking part in games at school
  • Avoiding going out with other children

Signs that a child is at risk of becoming overweight, if they are not already, include:

  • Eating lots of foods high in saturated fats such as pies, pasties, sausage rolls, hot chips, potato crisps and other snacks, and cakes, biscuits and high-sugar muesli bars
  • Eating take away or fast food meals more than once a week
  • Eating lots of foods high in added sugar such as cakes, biscuits, muffins, ice-cream and deserts
  • Drinking sugar-sweetened soft drinks, sports drinks or cordials
  • Eating lots of snacks high in salt and fat such as hot chips, potato crisps and other similar snacks
  • Skipping meals, including breakfast, regularly
  • Watching TV and/or playing video games or on social networks for more than two hours each day
  • Not being physically active on a daily basis.

For more information:

References for Part 1

1 Jacka FN, et al. Associations between diet quality and depressed mood in adolescents: results from the Australian Healthy Neighbourhoods Study. Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2010 May;44(5):435-42. https://doi.org/10.3109/00048670903571598571598
2 Gómez-Pinilla, F. (2008). Brain foods: The effects of nutrients on brain function. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 9(7), 568-578. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2805706/
3 Bellisle, F. (2004). Effects of diet on behaviour and cognition in children. British Journal of Nutrition, 92(2), S227–S232
4 Burrows, T., Goldman, S., Pursey, K., Lim, R. (2017) Is there an association between dietary intake and academic achievement: a systematic review. J Hum Nutr Diet. 30, 117– 140 doi: 10.1111/jhn.12407. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/jhn.12407
5 Jacka FN, Kremer PJ, Berk M, de Silva-Sanigorski AM, Moodie M, Leslie ER, et al. (2011) A Prospective Study of Diet Quality and Mental Health in Adolescents. PLoS ONE 6(9): e24805. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0024805
6 Bell AC, Swinburn BA. What are the key food groups to target for preventing obesity and improving nutrition in schools? Eur J Clin Nutr2004;58:258–63
7 Hardy L, King L, Espinel P, et al. NSW Schools Physical Activity and Nutrition Survey (SPANS) 2010: Full Report (pg 97). Sydney: NSW Ministry of Health, 2011
8 Department of Education and Training 2019, Child Health and Wellbeing Survey – Summary Findings 2017, State Government of Victoria, Melbourne.
9 Department of Health and Human Services 2016, Victoria’s Health; the Chief Health Officer’s report 2014, State Government of Victoria, Melbourne.



NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #Nutrition News : @CAACongress and @Apunipima ACCHO’s partner with Queensland Uni @UQ_NEWs in 3 year study to fight food insecurity in our Indigenous communities

“We have high rates of iron deficiency anaemia in women and young children and we know this is caused by inadequate iron in the diet.

Iron-rich foods are very expensive in remote communities, and it is believed this is a key factor in causing the deficiency.

The study will enable key foods to be reduced in price and determine the impact this has on their consumption and subsequent health concerns. It will also enable the issue of food security to be more widely discussed.”

Congress chief executive Donna Ah Chee (And NACCHO board member ) said the organisation was pleased to be partnering with Apunipima Health Service and the UQ “in this really important study, the first of its kind in Central Australia”.

Download also Congress obesity submission 


You can read all Aboriginal Health and Nutrition articles published by NACCHO 2012 to 2019 HERE

Working with communities to improve food security for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children will be the focus of a significant University of Queensland study.

The three-year research project, designed in conjunction with the Apunipima Cape York Health Council and the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, will be funded by a $2 million-plus National Health and Medical Research Council grant to UQ’s School of Public Health.

The study’s phase one will analyse how price discounts, offered via loyalty cards, impact on affordability of a healthy diet.

Phase two will capture participants’ experiences through photos, and use these to develop a framework of solutions that can be translated to health policy.

Dr Megan Ferguson said growing poverty and high food costs were key causes of food insecurity for 31 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in remote communities, although research suggests this may be as high as 62 per cent.

“Food insecurity leads to hunger, anxiety, poor health, including under-nutrition, obesity and disease, and inter-generational poverty,” Dr Ferguson said.

“We will be working with communities to identify effective mechanisms to improve food security and enable healthy diets in remote Australia.”

This would be done through a community-led framework and knowledge-sharing solutions.

“Pregnant and breastfeeding women, and carers of children aged under five, will be involved in the study in Central Australia and Cape York,” Dr Ferguson said.

“Improving food security for the whole family, especially women and children, will improve diet quality and health, and give children the best start in life for generations to come.”

Clare Brown, Apunipima’s Nutrition Advisor, said the organisation was pleased to co-lead “this important project”.

“It has come together through a very positive co-design process between researchers and Aboriginal community controlled health service providers,” Ms Brown said.

“The project’s community-led focus supports our way of working respectfully with Cape York communities, and is reflected in the Food Security Position Statement of Apunipima’s board,” Ms Brown said.

Menzies School of Health Research, Monash University, James Cook University and Canada’s Dalhousie University are also involved in the study.


NACCHO Aboriginal Children’s Health and @TAPPCentre #ChildSafety : @Walgett_AMS #PoolDay Community-led solutions will improve Aboriginal child safety promote community-building, togetherness, health and wellbeing and health promotion activity

“A Prevention Centre project looking at Aboriginal child injury launched its first community event on Saturday 30 November at Walgett Swimming pool. Focusing on water safety, nearly 400 people gathered at the pool to swim, talk, play and focus on the wellbeing of their young people.

A Prevention Centre project promoting Aboriginal child injury prevention held its first community event on Saturday 30 November at Walgett Swimming Pool.

The Walgett Pool Day was led by local Aboriginal community-controlled organisations as a fun and positive day for families to be together and safely enjoy the pool.”

Originally published by the Prevention Centre HERE

Read over 370 Aboriginal Children’s Health articles published by NACCHO over past 7 Years 

NACCHO Announcement 2020

After 2,800 Aboriginal Health Alerts over 7 and half years from www.nacchocommunique.com NACCHO media will cease publishing from this site as from 31 December 2019 and resume mid January 2020 with posts from www.naccho.org.au

For historical and research purposes all posts 2012-2019 will remain on www.nacchocommunique.com

Your current email subscription will be automatically transferred to our new Aboriginal Health News Alerts Subscriber service that will offer you the options of Daily , Weekly or Monthly alerts

For further info contact Colin Cowell NACCHO Social Media Media Editor

Almost 400 people attended, with free entry to the pool for a day of yarning, talking about what Walgett Aboriginal Medical Service (WAMS) Goonimoo Mobile Children’s Services will be delivering next year, barbecue, salad, fruit, iced water and the chance to win a family pool season pass.

Injury is the leading cause of death in Australian children. Programs targeting parents of young children offer an opportunity for engagement and improving health literacy around injury prevention throughout children’s lives.

Programs also need to target community-level factors that affect injuries like the physical environment and policies. Change at this level requires community buy-in; relationship-building and events like the pool day build good will and positive associations with the program.

“Parents are really keen to get involved to keep their kids safe. They have ideas about what can be done at a community level and they’re also keen to learn more about what they can do to prevent injuries.” Tara Smith, Goonimoo Child Injury Prevention Educator.


Working closely with local community groups, the Child Injury Prevention Program (CHIPP) has been developed as a community-led project and will be delivered through the existing supported playgroup Goonimoo run by WAMS which works with other local children’s services. This leverages existing knowledge and expertise about local service delivery and the relationships with Walgett families attending this well-established organisation.

“We’ve been having lots of informal yarns with parents during playgroup about the sorts of activities they want to do. We also held some formal research yarning groups with Nellie and Mel from UNSW at Goonimoo, with WAMS health personnel and other local children’s services,” said Amy Townsend Manager of Walgett Aboriginal Medical Service’s Goonimoo Mobile Children’s Services.

“We asked parents what sorts of injury issues they are concerned about and the topics they’d be interested in covering next year,” said Amy.

Parent involvement key to child safety

The involvement of parents is key to the success of the program and research shows it’s an effective route to reducing child injury.

“Parents are really keen to get involved to keep their kids safe. They have ideas about what can be done at a community level and they’re also keen to learn more about what they can do to prevent injuries,” said Tara Smith, Goonimoo Child Injury Prevention Educator.

“They also want to learn first aid – things like CPR and first aid for choking and snake bites – because we’re often a long way from help out here. Snake bites are a big issue in our community, so this is a priority area. Parents are keen, and always encouraged to have a say about the sorts of activities they want to do at Goonimoo’s playgroup ,” said Tara.

Tara has been working with Goonimoo for several years as a qualified educator, prior to which she was an Aboriginal Health Worker at Walgett Aboriginal Medical Service. Tara’s focus in 2020 is on delivering and refining the CHIPP program. Tara is currently studying to become an Aboriginal Health Practitioner.

“I’m learning a lot about child injury. For example, I’ve just been to Sydney to start the Austswim Teacher of Swimming and Water Safety course so we can do ‘parents and bubs’ water familiarisation play sessions at the pool next year. Aboriginal families don’t really have access to these sort of water activities in Walgett at the moment,” said Tara.

Tara also co-presented about CHIPP with Dr Melanie Andersen at the Australasian Injury Prevention Network Conference in Brisbane in November.

Walgett Pool Day

Walgett is situated at the junction of the Barwon and Namoi rivers, and the community has a healthy respect for the importance of water safety. CHIPP’s focus on water safety in term one was the result of community consultation.

Walgett’s pool has always been a strong focus for the community to come together, exercise and get some welcome respite from its long, dry summers, particularly now that the rivers are very depleted due to the drought.

“The CHIPP team has yarned with parents about what they’d like from the program, and about injury prevention in general, over the past few months. The Walgett Pool Day was a great opportunity to reach families to promote Goonimoo and the CHIPP program. We also had a few good yarns with the pool manager about water safety, existing and previous swimming programs at Walgett and the pool-based playgroup next year” said Dr Melanie Andersen from UNSW,  a key investigator on the Prevention Centre project.

“The turnout was great and we think that was a result of a long period of promotion by Goonimoo and combining forces with Yuwaya Ngarra-li and Dharriwaa Elders Group so families had transport to and from the pool. The pool was packed with children and families having a ball and cooling down on the 38oC day. We spoke to many people about the program and we’re looking forward to seeing them at the parents and bubs swimming sessions in 2020,” said Dr Andersen.

Community organisations key to success

The success of the Walgett Pool Day is down to the strong local Aboriginal community-controlled organisations who collaborated to bring people together.

“Yuwaya Ngarra-li – the partnership between Walgett’s Dharriwaa Elders Group (DEG) and UNSW, were doing their annual community data gathering day with children and young people. Because the CHIPP program was introduced to Walgett through the Yuwaya Ngarra-li partnership, we decided to combine our resources,” said Wendy Spencer, Project Manager with Dharriwaa Elders Group and Yuwaya Ngarra-li (Dharriwaa Elders Group’s formal research partnership with UNSW Sydney).

“WAMS, DEG, Yuwaya Ngarra-li and the CHIPP team all contributed resources including staff time, food, accommodation, transport, sun-safety giveaways like hats and sunscreen and other resources to make the day a success. We were also pleased that Mission Australia kindly ran the barbecue and the Police Citizens Youth Club provided the music. I was really pleased with the happy good vibe of the day where we had the opportunity to provide some good food, free entry and a fun family time at the pool to cap off a difficult year for everyone in Walgett,”said Wendy.

The day was such a success that Walgett Aboriginal Medical Service will hold two additional community pool days this summer to promote community-building, togetherness, health and wellbeing and as a forum for health promotion activity.

“CHIPP will begin again in earnest next year at Goonimoo, aiming to start off in term one at the pool with parents and bubs water play sessions. The program will focus around activity and play,” said Dr Mel Andersen.

“So, for example, while Goonimoo staff teach parents water familiarisation activities to do with their kids that build water skills, staff will also yarn about drowning prevention. Each school term will have a different injury prevention focus, including sport and physical activity, home safety and road safety.”

Walgett community tips for child water safety

  • Close and constant active adult supervision is the key, even in shallow water
  • Drowning is quick and silent
  • Teach swimming and water safety as early as possible
  • Talk to your children, explain the potential for danger but have fun

Read more

All images © 2019 Dharriwaa Elders Group

Story by Helen Loughlin, Senior Communications Officer

Published: 17 December 2019

NACCHO Aboriginal Children’s Health Resources : Download report : Why we need to rethink Aboriginal childhood #obesity ? Q and A with @SaxInstitute @simonesherriff

“Rates of obesity are high among Aboriginal children, but there’s a lack of policies, guidelines and programs to tackle the issue. Now a new paper published this week in the December issue of Public Health Research & Practice is calling for more meaningful engagement with Aboriginal communities to better address childhood obesity.

Here, lead author Simone Sherriff, a Wotjobaluk woman, PhD student and project officer with the Study of Environment on Aboriginal Resilience and Child Health (SEARCH) at the Sax Institute talks about the paper and her take on the obesity challenges facing Aboriginal communities.

Download Copy of Paper 

ATSI Childhood Obesity

Read over 70 Aboriginal Health and Obesity articles published by NACCHO over the past 7 Years 

Q: Childhood obesity is a national concern, but as your paper points out, Aboriginal children are far more profoundly affected than non-Aboriginal children. What’s going on?

A: I think it’s complicated, but in order to better understand Aboriginal childhood obesity we need to look beyond general individual risk factors, and consider how colonisation has impacted and continues to impact on the health and wellbeing of our people and communities today.

For example, Aboriginal people were forced off Country, unable to access traditional foods and made to adopt unhealthy western diets whilst living on missions and reserves.

Another thing that should be considered is the exclusion of Aboriginal people in Australia from education, health, politics and all systems, so it’s no wonder we see a gap between our health and the rest of the Australian population and continue to see a lack of relevant policies and programs from state and national governments.

These bigger structural and systemic issues are like a waterfall flowing on to affect communities, families and individuals. And until these issues are addressed, it’s going to be very difficult to close the gap on childhood obesity.

Q: What’s currently being done to address childhood obesity among Aboriginal children?

A: There are many great healthy lifestyle programs for preventing childhood obesity within our Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service (ACCHS) sector, but generally there’s a lack of investment and funding into these services by government.

This is unfortunate because I think the rest of Australia could learn a lot from the model of healthcare that the ACCHS sector provides for our people. As Darryl Wright, the CEO of Tharawal Aboriginal Medical Corporation always says – our ACCHSs are like one-stop shops catering for all parts of a person’s health and wellbeing. So rather than looking at childhood obesity and thinking only about healthy eating and exercise, this kind of model considers a more holistic approach and the range of things that could be impacting on a person’s health and the community.

As mentioned in our paper, there are also a number of government and mainstream programs targeting healthy weight that have been culturally adapted for Aboriginal children and families. One example is the NSW Go4Fun program, which is designed for 7- to 13-year-olds who are above a healthy weight. When they did an evaluation of the mainstream Go4Fun program, they noticed that there were quite a few Aboriginal children who came into the program, but they had very low completion rates.

This evaluation led Go4Fun to consult with Aboriginal organisations and communities to understand how to improve the program to be more culturally appropriate. And as a result, organisers changed the way they were running the program and also set up Aboriginal advisory groups at local health districts. It’ll be interesting to see if this has positive impacts for the local participating communities.

Q: What are the biggest challenges for these existing programs?

A: There are a few, but the biggest challenge is that these programs are created and developed by non-Aboriginal people for Aboriginal children, meaning that they’re not always relevant, or they don’t consider the holistic approach that’s required to address childhood obesity.

Another important challenge is that some mainstream childhood obesity programs haven’t collected information on Aboriginal children separately, so even though there might be Aboriginal children participating in these programs, they tend not to report those separately.

We also need to consider the focus of these programs, which are currently targeting childhood obesity with healthy eating, education and physical activity. Although these are really important, lots of Aboriginal families are food insecure – which means they’re running out of food and can’t access food or afford to buy more. Recent data shows that 1 in 4 Aboriginal people are food insecure. I believe these rates are underestimated and the rates of Aboriginal families who are food insecure would actually be much higher than this data shows. This is compared with fewer than 1 in 20 people in the general population.

So how are programs that target healthy eating meant to be effective if people can’t even afford to buy food or can’t access it? Again, it’s going back to those bigger issues.

Q: How can Australia begin closing the gap on childhood obesity?

A: I think one thing that could be done is there needs to be more funding and resources put into the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service sector, as they’re run by their community for their community, so they’re best placed to design, implement and evaluate childhood obesity programs. And currently there are no specific policies for Aboriginal childhood obesity – we’re just mentioned as a target group within the general childhood obesity policies. That could be another good place to start.

The Study of Environment on Aboriginal Resilience and Child Health (SEARCH) team.










Q: Why is it so important to have locally-informed, culturally appropriate programs?

A: There is evidence that programs led and delivered by Aboriginal communities lead to better health outcomes for their community. I think it’s so important to have Aboriginal people in leadership and key decision-making roles with a proper seat at the table within all of these systems. And it’s also important to ensure that local Aboriginal voices are heard and they are leaders and drivers of local programs.

If not, I think it’s impossible for government and non-Aboriginal service providers to deliver programs and policies that are going to have a positive impact on the health of our mob. To see real gains, we need all government policies and programs to value self-determination, and these systems need to decolonise for all Australians to be able to have good health.

Find out more

NACCHO Aboriginal Women’s Health : Download results of the @JeanHailes 2019 #WomensHealthSurvey : Which health topics do women want more information on ?

” The results of the fifth annual Jean Hailes Women’s Health Survey were launched by Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt – and showed that more than a third of women who responded to the survey said they have had depression (34.6%) or anxiety (39.4%).

Of the almost 10,000 respondents, 42% of women reported feeling nervous, anxious or on edge nearly every day or at least weekly in the past four weeks – and women aged between 18-35 reported the highest levels of anxiety, with 64.1% feeling nervous, anxious or on edge nearly every day or at least weekly in the past four weeks.

Women aged 18-35 are also the loneliest of all age groups—almost 40% reported feelings of loneliness every week .

More than 50% of women aged 36-65 perceive themselves as overweight or obese.

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, the proportion who felt discriminated against was around 35% compared with 16% for non-Indigenous women.”

Media coverage from AJP 

More info from Jean Hailes Website 

Download 35 Page Survey Results


The survey’s chief investigator and Head of Research Partnerships and Philanthropy at Jean Hailes, Dr Rachel Mudge, says the survey findings “underscore the pressure that women across the country face as they juggle work, young children, as well as ageing parents and other social demands”.

“Rates of anxiety and women’s negative perceptions of their bodies are a common theme in our annual survey, something that social media seems to be fuelling,” Dr Mudge says.

In launching the results, Minister Hunt said that they reflect the health needs and behaviour of almost 10,000 women throughout Australia, and have helped shape a better understanding of the emerging issues and trends in women’s health.

“The survey reveals women want more information on anxiety than any other health topic,” Mr Hunt said.

“Women also want more information on menopause, weight management, bone health and dementia.”

He highlighted the Morrison Government’s investment in women’s health, including the National Women’s Health Strategy 2020–2030 as well as the announcement earlier this year of $35 million for ovarian and gynaecological cancer research through the Medical Research Future Fund.

“More than $37 million has been invested since 2013 through the National Health and Medical Research Council for ovarian cancer research,” Mr Hunt said.

“In 2017-18, the Government spent over $21 million to subsidise medicines for ovarian cancer on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and continues to support improved access to medicines and treatments through the PBS and Medicare.

“We have also provided over $4.5 million to Ovarian Cancer Australia for patient support for the TRACEBACK project and the Ovarian Cancer Case Management Pilot.”

Mr Hunt also highlighted the Government’s recent $13.7 million in activities to deal with endometriosis.

However the Acting Chief Executive of the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association Dr Linc Thurecht highlighted inequities between Australian women.

“An alarming one in six women in Australia say they cannot afford to see a health professional when they need one—and the same proportion experience discrimination when doing so.

“Women aged 18–35 found it hardest to afford a health professional—comprising about one in five in this age group,” Dr Thurecht said.

“There was quite a gap between the rich and not-so-rich. People who said they were ‘living comfortably’ almost universally could see a health professional whenever they needed to.

“For people who said they were ‘just getting by’, around 40% could not afford to see a health professional.

“For people who declared they were ‘finding it very difficult’, a staggering 80% said they could not afford to see a health professional when they needed one.

“Around 16% of the total number of women surveyed felt they experienced discrimination in accessing healthcare—but this appeared to improve with age from 20% in the younger age groups to 9% for the oldest (80+) women’, Dr Thurecht said.

“For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, the proportion who felt discriminated against was around 35% compared with 16% for non-Indigenous women.

“These figures, which are about access to needed care, are very disappointing.”

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #ChronicDisease #Prevention News : @ACDPAlliance Health groups welcome action on added sugars labelling and further consider 10 recommendations to improve the Health Star Rating system


“Industry spends vast amounts of money advertising unhealthy foods, so it is essential that nutrition information is readily available to help people understand what they are eating and drinking.

Two in three Australian adults are overweight or obese and unhealthy foods, including those high in added sugars, contribute greatly to excess energy intake and unhealthy weight gain”

Chair of the Australian Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance Sharon McGowan said food labelling is an important part of understanding more about the products we consume every day

Read previous 70 NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Nutrition Healthy foods articles

The five year review of the HSR system (the Review) has now been completed. See Part 2 Below

Five Year Review of the Health Star Rating System – PDF 3211 KB

The Australian Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance welcomes the recent decisions to improve food labelling and provide clear and simple health information on food and drinks.

The Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation announced yesterday it would progress added sugars labelling and further consider 10 recommendations to improve the Health Star Rating system.

Decisions were also made to provide a nationally consistent approach to energy labelling on fast food menu boards and consider the contribution of alcohol to daily energy intake.

Current Health Star Rating system.

Ms McGowan said overweight and obesity is a key risk factor for many chronic diseases.

“We welcome improvements to existing labelling systems to increase consumer understanding and provide an incentive for industry to create healthier products.”

The Ministerial Forum also released the independent review of the Health Star Rating system with 10 recommendations for strengthening the system, including changes to how the ratings are calculated, and setting targets and timeframes for industry uptake.

The Australian Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance has been advocating to improve the Health Star Rating system for years. While the Alliance supports stronger changes to the ratings calculator, Ms McGowan said it was promising to see recommendations enhancing consistency of labels and proposing a mandatory response if voluntary targets are not met.

“Under the current voluntary system, only around 30 percent of eligible products display the health star rating on the label and some manufacturers are applying ratings to the highest scoring products only,” Ms McGowan said.

SMH Editorial The epidemic of childhood obesity and chronic health conditions linked to bad diet has turned supermarket aisles into the front line of one of the hardest debates in politics.

“To truly achieve its purpose and help people compare products, the rating needs to be visible and consistently applied to all foods and drinks.”

The recommendations to improve the Health Star Rating system will be considered by Ministers later this year.

Ms McGowan added “We know that unhealthy food and drinks are a major contributor to overweight and obesity, and that food labelling should be part of an overall approach to creating healthier food environments.”

Read the Health Star Rating report here and the Ministerial Forum communique here.

The five year review of the HSR system (the Review) has now been completed.

Five Year Review of the Health Star Rating System – PDF 3211 KB
Five Year Review of the Health Star Rating System – Word 16257 KB

The five year review of the HSR system considered if and how well the objectives of the system have been met and has identified several options for improvements to the system, including communication, monitoring, governance and system/calculator enhancements.

The Review found that the HSR system has been performing well. Whilst there is a broad range of stakeholders with diverse opinions, there is also strong support for the system to continue.

The recommendations contained in the Review Report are designed to address some of the key criticisms of the current system. The key recommendations from the report are that:

  • the HSR system continue as a voluntary system with the addition of some specific industry uptake targets and that the Australian, state and territory and New Zealand governments support the system with funding for a further four years;
  • that changes are made to the way the HSR is calculated to better align with Dietary Guidelines, and including fruit and vegetables into the system; and
  • that some minor changes are made to the governance of the system, including transfer of the HSR calculator to Food Standards Australia New Zealand.

The next steps will be for members of the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation to respond to the Review Report, and the recommendations contained within. It is anticipated that Forum will respond before the end of 2019.
Five Year Review – Draft Report

A draft of the review report was made available for public comment on the Australian Department of Health’s Consultation Hub from Monday 25 February 2019 until midnight Monday 25 March 2019. Following consideration of comments received, the report will be finalised and provided to the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation (through the HSRAC and the Food Regulation Standing Committee) in mid-2019. mpconsulting sought targeted feedback on the draft recommendations – in particular, any comments on inaccuracies, factual errors and additional considerations or evidence that hadn’t previously been identified.

Draft Five Year Review Report – PDF 2928 KB
Draft Five Year Review Report – Word 21107 KB

A list of submissions for which confidentiality was not requested is below; submissions are available on request from the Front-of-Pack Labelling Secretariat via frontofpack@health.gov.au.

List of submissions: draft five year review report – PDF 110 KB
List of submissions: draft five year review report – Excel 13 KB
Five Year Review – Consultation

Detail on previous opportunities to provide feedback during and on the review are available on the Stakeholder Consultation page.

public submission process for the five year review was conducted between June and August 2017. mpconsulting prepared a report on these submissions and proposed a future consultation strategy. A list of submissions made is also available.

Submissions to the five year review of the HSR system – PDF 446 KB
Submissions to the five year review of the HSR system – Excel 23 KB

Report on Submissions to the Five Year Review of the Health Star Rating System – PDF 736 KB
Report on Submissions to the Five Year Review of the Health Star Rating System – Word 217 KB

5 Year Review of the Health Star Rating system – Future Consultation Opportunities – PDF 477 KB
5 Year Review of the Health Star Rating system – Future Consultation Opportunities – Word 28 KB

mpconsulting also prepared a Navigation Paper to guide Stage 2 (Wider Consultations Feb-Apr 2018) of their consultation strategy.

Navigation Paper – PDF 355 KB
Navigation Paper – Word 252 KB

Drawing on the early submissions and public workshops conducted across Australia and New Zealand in February- April 2018, mpconsulting identified 10 key issues relating to the products on which the HSR appears and the way that stars are calculated. A range of options for addressing identified issues were identified and, where possible, mpconsulting specified its preferred option. These issues are described in the Five Year Review of the Health Star Rating System – Consultation Paper: Options for System Enhancement.

Five Year Review of the Health Star Rating System – Consultation Paper: Options for System Enhancement – PDF 944 KB
Five Year Review of the Health Star Rating System – Consultation Paper: Options for System Enhancement – Word 430 KB

This Consultation Paper is informed by the TAG’s in-depth review of the technical components of the system. The TAG developed a range of technical papers on various issues identified by stakeholders, available on the mpconsulting website.

From October to December 2018, mpconsulting sought stakeholder views on the issues and the options, input on the impacts of the various options, and any suggestions for alternative options to address the identified issues. Written submissions could be made via the Australian Department of Health’s Consultation Hub.

mpconsulting held three further stakeholder workshops in Melbourne, Auckland and Sydney in November 2018 to enable stakeholders to continue to provide input on key issues for the review, including on options for system enhancements.
Five Year Review – Process

In April 2016, the Health Star Rating (HSR) Advisory Committee (HSRAC) commenced planning for the five year review of the HSR system.

Terms of Reference for the five year review follow:
Terms of Reference for the five year review of the Health Star Rating system – PDF 23 KB
Terms of Reference for the five year review of the Health Star Rating system – Word 29 KB

In September 2016, the HSRAC established a Technical Advisory Group (TAG) to analyse the performance of the HSR Calculator and respond to technical issues and related matters referred to it by the HSRAC.

HSRAC Members agreed that, in order to achieve a degree of independence, consultant(s) should be engaged to complete the review. In July 2017, following an Approach to Market process, Matthews Pegg Consulting (mpconsulting) was engaged as the independent reviewer.

The timeline for the five year review.
Five year review timeline – PDF 371 KB
Five year review timeline – Excel 14 KB

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #ClosingTheGap : Aboriginal owned health promotion company @SparkHealthAus denied right to use Aboriginal flag and use of word ‘gap’for #ClothingTheGap : @theprojecttv


“ The flag represents much more than just a business opportunity. 

It’s been an important symbol to Aboriginal people for a really long time, a symbol of resistance, of struggle of pride, and that’s why we’ve got such a strong attachment.

One ( of the two companies ) is an international worldwide company [pursuing us] for using the word ‘Gap’ and the other is for trying to share our culture.

The purpose of Spark Health is to improve Aboriginal peoples lives.”

Spark Health founder and Gunditjmara woman Laura Thompson spoke to the The Australian and the ABC describing the two-pronged attack after the Koori Mail broke the story 

Koori Mail reporter Darren Coyne worked really hard over the past few weeks to break an important story about copyright of the Aboriginal flag : See Page 3 June 5 Edition

Read Download HERE 

Six weeks, six deadly health dares, six workouts, one grouse piece of merch! Spark Health Australia are proud to work with the ACCHOHealth Services team at the Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-Op in Geelong to deliver ‘I Dare Ya’, a six week health and well-being program

An Aboriginal business is fighting for the right to feature the Indigenous flag in its “Clothing the Gap” fashion designs, while also fending off a copyright attack from a global retail giant.

Spark Health, which is an Aboriginal-owned health promotion business, has been told by US-based retailer GAP INC that it cannot use the word “Gap’’ in its fashion line, which plays on the phrase “Closing the Gap’’ that is used to describe the efforts to improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – FEBRUARY 20: Gap clothing is displayed at a Gap store on February 20, 2014 in San Francisco, California. Gap Inc.

To add to its woes, the Preston-based profit-for-purpose outfit has been sent a “cease and desist” letter by Queensland-based WAM Clothing over its use of the Aboriginal flag in its clothing designs.

The copyright of the Aboriginal flag is owned by its designer, Harold Thomas, a Luritja man, who has licensed its use in clothing exclusively to WAM.

Ms Thompson said she wrote to Mr Thomas requesting permission to use the Aboriginal flag in August last year.

She said she was happy to pay a fee in order to replicate the design.

An online petition started by Spark Health, criticising the exclusive licensing of the flag to a non-indigenous company, has gathered more than 20,000 + signatures so far.

Sign the petition or see Part 3 Below

“This is a question of control,” the petition reads.

“Should WAM Clothing, a non-indigenous business, hold the monopoly in a market to profit off Aboriginal peoples’ identity and love for ‘their’ flag?”

Spark Health director of operations, Sarah Sheridan, who is not indigenous, said WAM was exploiting Aboriginal Australia.

“Non-indigenous Australians must listen to, and support the voices of Aboriginal people and back their self-determination,” she said.

“Rather than exploiting them in the way that WAM clothing currently are.”

A WAM spokesperson said it was obligated to enforce the copyright.

“In addition to creating our own product lines bearing the Aboriginal flag, WAM Clothing works with manufacturers and sellers of clothing bearing the Aboriginal flag — including Aboriginal-owned organisations — providing them with options to continue manufacturing and selling their own clothing ranges bearing the flag, which ensures that Harold Thomas is paid a royalty,” the spokesperson said.

WAM provided a statement from Mr Thomas, in which he said, as the designer, it was up to him to decide who could use the Aboriginal flag.

“As it is my common law right and aboriginal heritage right … I can choose who I like to have a licence agreement to manufacture and sell goods which have the Aboriginal flag on it,” he said.

WAM Clothing was co-founded by Ben Wootzer, whose previous company Birubi Art was found to be in breach of Australian consumer law after selling over 18,000 Aboriginal such as boomerangs and didgeridoos were in fact made in Indonesia.

GAP Inc did not respond to The Australian’s request for comment.

Part 2

New licence owners of Aboriginal flag threaten football codes and clothing companies

Indigenous reporter Isabella Higgins

From the ABC News

The Aboriginal flag is unique among Australia’s national flags, because the copyright of the image is owned by an individual.

A Federal Court ruling in 1997 recognised the ownership claim by designer Harold Thomas.

The Luritja artist has licensing agreements with just three companies; one to reproduce flags, and the others to reproduce the image on objects and clothing.

WAM Clothing, a new Queensland-based business, secured the exclusive clothing licence late last year.

Since acquiring it, the company has threatened legal action against several organisations.

The ABC understands WAM Clothing issued notices to the NRL and AFL over their use of the flag on Indigenous-round jerseys.

A spokesman for the NRL said the organisation was aware of the notices, but would not comment further.

The ABC has contacted the AFL, but no official response has been received.

WAM Clothing said simply it was “in discussions with the NRL, AFL and other organisations regarding the use of the Aboriginal flag on clothing”.

The Aboriginal flag has been widely used on the country’s sporting fields, carried by Cathy Freeman in iconic moments at the 1994 Commonwealth Games and 2000 Sydney Olympics.

It only became a recognised national flag in 1995 under the Keating government, but had been widely used by the Aboriginal community since the 1970s.

The Torres Strait Islander flag was also recognised as a national flag at this time, but the copyright is collectively owned by the Torres Strait Regional Council.

The move to adopt both flags as symbols of state was somewhat controversial at the time, with the then opposition leader John Howard opposing the move.

PHOTO: Indigenous artist Harold Thomas is the designer of the Aboriginal flag. (ABC News: Nick Hose)

Former head of the Australian Copyright Council Fiona Phillips said there could be an argument for the Government or another agency buying back the copyright licence from Mr Thomas.

“The fact that the flag has been recognised since 1995 as an official Australian flag takes it out of the normal copyright context and gives it an extra public policy element,” she said.

She said it was an image of significance to a large part of the nation and it was important there was some control to avoid potential exploitation.

“It’s quite unusual for copyright to be held by an individual and controlled by an individual rather than a government or statutory authority who, maybe for policy reasons, has other interests in mind,” Ms Phillips said.

“There has to be a way that Mr Thomas can be remunerated fairly but where other people can also have access to the flag.”

Fight to stop flag ‘monopoly’

A Victorian-based health organisation, Spark Health, which produces merchandise with the flag on it, was issued with a cease and desist notice last week and given three business days to stop selling their stock.

The flag represents much more than just a business opportunity, the organisation’s owner, Laura Thompson said.

“It’s been an important symbol to Aboriginal people for a really long time, a symbol of resistance, of struggle of pride, and that’s why we’ve got such a strong attachment,” Ms Thompson said.

PHOTO: Laura Thompson was given three days to cease and desist selling her merchandise. (ABC News: Loretta Florance)

The organisation started an online petition, that has attracted about 13,000 signatures, calling on Mr Thomas to stop the exclusive licensing arrangements.

“We want flag rights for our people, we’ve fought enough, we’ve struggled, we don’t want to struggle to use our flag now,” Ms Thompson said.

“We don’t want anyone to have a monopoly over how we use the Aboriginal flag. The fact they’re a non-Indigenous company doesn’t sit well with me.

WAM Clothing said it would work with all organisations, and provide them with options to continue manufacturing their own clothing ranges bearing the flag.

“WAM Clothing has obligations under its Licence Agreement to enforce Harold Thomas’ Copyright, which includes issuing cease and desist notices,” a spokeswoman for the company said.

Mr Thomas said it was his “common law right” to choose who he enters licensing agreements with.

PHOTO: Spark Health produced a range of clothing featuring the Indigenous flag to help fund its community programs. (ABC News: Loretta Florance)

Wiradjuri artist Lani Balzan designed the NRL’s St George Illawarra Indigenous jersey for four years.

She said it was a disappointing development and will make her reconsider her designs for the football club and other institutions in the future.

“Schools, when they buy their uniforms through me, we put the Torres Strait and the Aboriginal flag on both shoulders, so I don’t know if we will be allowed to do that anymore,” she said.

“It’s not just the flag, it’s what represents them and our culture and who we are, to have some non-Indigenous company get copyright, it’s really upsetting.

“It’s disappointing because it’s coming down to money and the flag doesn’t represent money, it represents us as Aboriginal people, and our culture and who we are.”

Conduct of WAM director’s former business ‘unacceptable’

One of the directors of WAM Clothing, Benjamin Wooster, is the former owner of the now defunct Birubi Arts, a company taken to court over its production of fake Aboriginal art.

In October last year, the Federal Court found Birubi Arts was misleading customers to believe its products were genuine, when in fact they were produced and painted in Indonesia.

At the time, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said Birubi’s conduct was “unacceptable”.

Weeks later Birubi Arts ceased operating, and the next month the director and a new partner opened a new business, WAM Clothing.

Birubi Arts company sold more than 18,000 fake boomerangs, bullroarers, didgeridoos and message stones to retail outlets around Australia between July 2017 to November 2017.

The case is due before court again this week, for a penalty hearing, which some lawyers expect could see a hefty fine handed down that could run into the millions.

The company is now in the hands of liquidators, and the ABC understands it “doesn’t have any capacity” to pay further debts.

The director of WAM Clothing is also in charge of another company, Giftsmate, which has the exclusive licence with Mr Thomas to reproduce objects with the Aboriginal flag on it.

Mr Thomas reiterated his support for all the companies he worked with.

“It’s taken many years to find the appropriate Australian company that respects and honours the Aboriginal flag meaning and copyright and that is WAM Clothing,” Mr Thomas said.

“I have done this with Carroll & Richardson [flag licensee], Gifts Mate and the many approvals I’ve given to [other] Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal organisations.”

Part 3 Join us in the fight for #FlagRights, for #PrideNotProfit.

We’ve always said that our products are conversation starters. We never thought as tiny little Aboriginal-led business that we’d come under scrutiny for celebrating the Aboriginal Flag or using the word ‘gap’ in our name as we try to self-determine our futures while we work towards adding years to peoples lives.

Show your support, sign the petition

Part 4