Gardens of discontent: health and horticulture in remote Aboriginal Australia

Gardens of discontent: health and horticulture in remote Aboriginal Australia Report

AIATSIS Research Discussion Paper

  • Author(s): Ernest Hunter, Leigh-ann Onnis, John Pritchard
  • Published: 2014
  • Publisher: Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies

Abstract: Excess vulnerability of Indigenous Australians persists even when conventional risk factors are accounted for. This has spurred theorising and research regarding psycho-social factors relating to ‘control’ in Indigenous settings. The research has included exploration of health-related behaviour (diet) and ‘mastery’ (the degree to which individuals feel in control of their lives) in remote Aboriginal populations of the Northern Territory. It has shown age-dependent relationships between mastery and consumption of fruit and vegetables, and particularly low levels of mastery among young men who are the partners of young women and the fathers of infants and young children. Such issues take on particular importance given that conventional health promotion approaches (such as information- or ‘knowledge’-based approaches) have met with limited success. Remoteness is a key factor in food insecurity. This paper considers one approach in remote Aboriginal settings that has been common wisdom for more than a century and that is now recognised for its potential to broadly impact health throughout the lifespan — increasing fruit and vegetable availability and consumption through local production. This is identified in the National Strategy for Food Security in Remote Indigenous Communities: National Healthy Eating Action Plan as one supply-based element (COAG 2010). Acknowledging the complex interplay of social and psychological layers that impact on health outcomes, we attempt to identify key factors that have frustrated attempts to develop sustainable market gardens and that influence consumption of produce in one region (Cape York Peninsula). And we consider in more detail the experience in Lockhart River, a discrete community on the eastern coast. This paper focuses on the use of horticulture as a means to improve nutrition and health. Although we are interested in whether horticulture can be scaled up to ensure reliable and extended local supply that could potentially lead to commercial production, such economic enterprise is not our focus

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Suggested Citation
Ernest Hunter, Leigh-ann Onnis, John Pritchard, 2014, Gardens of discontent: health and horticulture in remote Aboriginal Australia, Report, viewed 28 November 2023,

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