Food practices of young people in a remote Aboriginal community

Food practices of young people in a remote Aboriginal community Book Section

Indigenous Australian Youth Futures: Living the Social Determinants of Health

  • Author(s): Aquino, Danielle
  • Secondary Author(s): Senior, Kate, Chenhall, Richard, Burbank, Victoria
  • Published: 2021
  • Publisher: ANU Press
  • ISBN: 9781760464448

Abstract: A common trope is that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are ‘lost’, ‘trapped’ or ‘caught’ between two worlds: that of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and that of mainstream Australian society: Aboriginal people are sometimes lost between the two realities, trying to preserve their traditional culinary heritage and culture and at the same time trying to adopt new food practices and eating habits. (Sebastian and Donelly 2013, 70). Conceptualising people as being lost between two cultures is, however, a ‘thoroughly constrained notion of intercultural engagement’ (Hinkson and Smith 2005, 161) and one that is limiting as an explanation for Aboriginal people’s food practices in contemporary life. The contemporary food system in most remote Aboriginal communities is an intercultural space, comprising commercial, customary, locally grown, and state or welfare elements (Brimblecombe et al. 2014; Buchanan 2014). While there are differences between the Aboriginal and introduced or whitefella ‘domains’ of the food system, they are interrelated through people, organisations and institutions. It is within this intercultural space that the ‘new food practices and eating habits’ referred to above are evolving. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Aboriginal people may have ‘different forms of experience, knowing and practice’ (Merlan 2005, 174) of each of the food systems. Understanding how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people understand and engage with the contemporary food system, and valuing their knowledges and perspectives, presents opportunities for addressing complex issues such as nutrition and diet (Wilson et al. 2020). Young people are particularly subject to being portrayed as ‘caught between’ contemporary Australian society and a reified notion of traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture (McCoy 2009, s20). Their food practices are often cause for concern to health practitioners and within families and communities. Reliance on junk food and a perceived ‘loss’ of taste for traditional foods are common concerns (Brimblecombe et al. 2014; Saethre 2013). Unfortunately, the perspectives of Aboriginal young people themselves in relation to their food and eating practices are very much lacking. As Eickelkamp (2011) notes, there is little research in general on how Aboriginal children and young people experience life, shape their social world and imagine the future: all aspects of life that may affect dietary practices. This chapter, along with others in this volume, attempts to glimpse into the perspectives and life circumstances of some Aboriginal young people. First, I provide a brief snapshot of epidemiological evidence to set the scene as to why a focus on young people’s food and eating practices is of interest in the wider effort to reduce Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage. Then, drawing on ethnographic material from Ngukurr, a remote Aboriginal community in the Northern Territory, I explore young people’s subjective and embodied experiences of food and eating.

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Suggested Citation
Aquino, Danielle, 2021, Food practices of young people in a remote Aboriginal community, Book Section, viewed 22 October 2021,

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