14 February 2019
Thousands more Aboriginal children and their families living in remote communities across the Northern Territory and Western Australia are set to benefit from improved nutrition and health, thanks to new funding from the Australian Government’s Department of Health.
EON Foundation, which has delivered its successful EON Thriving Communities program for over a decade, will expand into nine new communities in NT and extend its current delivery in a further nine in WA.
For the first time, EON’s health and disease prevention program will be welcomed into the NT’s Big Rivers Region communities of Barunga, Pine Creek, Manyallaluk, Beswick, Bulman, Jilkminggan, Minyerri, Urapunga and Ngukurr.
The new funding substantially extends the reach of the proven program that teaches children and their families how to grow and cook their own fruit and vegetables to combat poor nutrition and reduce preventable disease.
Announcing the new funding, Federal Minister for Indigenous Health Hon Ken Wyatt MLA said the investment would help prevent many diseases that are rife in remote communities, are expensive to treat and preclude sufferers from participating fully at school and work.
“Through EON’s intervention to improve nutrition early in life and over a long period, we can help overcome the appalling rate of nutrition-related diseases in communities. Apart from the human suffering and dislocation caused by having to leave home for treatment, we know that a dollar spent on prevention saves around $8 in the cost to treat that disease,” the Minister said.
The funding will also extend for a further two years the program currently being delivered in Yakanarra, Yiyili, Jarlmadangah in the Kimberley; Marble Bar, Nullagine, Jigalong in the Pilbara; and Meekatharra, Mount Magnet and Yalgoo communities in the Murchison region of Western Australia.
Under the multi-year program, the community children and their families will participate in fortnightly classes to understand the vital link between good nutrition and disease prevention. Most importantly in communities where food security and cost are a major issue, they will learn how to put that learning into action by growing, preparing, cooking and eating healthy fruit, vegetables and bush tucker.
EON Chair, Caroline de Mori, congratulated the Minister and Department of Health for electing to support a grassroots program that focuses on early intervention and sustainable outcomes. EON delivers the program by invitation-only and in partnership with community schools and community, where each has its own roles and responsibilities to ensure its long-term success.
“This agreement allows EON to continue its important work in communities where we are seeing positive, on-the-ground results and changing behaviours and attitudes to healthy eating but also expand into new communities that have been on our waiting list.
“The funding allows us to further expand into the Northern Territory to address the current high levels of nutrition-related diseases, including Type II diabetes, to ensure there is sufficient fresh food available and that the link between nutrition and better health is well understood. We know children cannot learn and stay engaged at school if they cannot hear, are malnourished and constantly fighting infections,” said Ms de Mori. “By improving nutrition, we give them the chance to grow up healthy, thrive at school and participate effectively in the workforce when they leave school.”
Ms de Mori said demand continues to grow for the ‘invitation-only’ program.
“We only partner with a community when invited by the Elders/Traditional Owners and the school. It’s our practical, collaborative and respectful approach that is the key to the success of the program. We know that one of the key reasons the program succeeds is because we include everyone in community over a number of years – and it’s fun!” she said.
EON Thriving Communities Program is a practical, hands-on gardening, nutrition education, cooking and hygiene program, developed in partnership with remote communities and schools and based around developing large fruit, vegetable and bush tucker gardens.
Poor nutrition accounts for 19% of the Aboriginal health gap. 95% of Aboriginal children have an inadequate daily intake of fruit and vegetables and suffer nutritional anaemia and malnutrition at 30 times the rate of non-Aboriginal children with an 18-times higher rate of childhood diabetes. Middle ear disease is so high that over 70% of children start school with some degree of hearing loss.
The Program operates by invitation only from remote, Aboriginal communities and addresses these problems in a practical, community-driven way. By developing the program in consultation with community members and adapting its approach, EON Foundation supports local decision-making, capacity-building and sustainability.
To date, the program has been successfully implemented in 24 remote communities across the Kimberley and Pilbara regions of Western Australia and in 3 communities on Groote Eylandt in the Northern Territory with great success.
In February 2018, EON Thriving Communities Program was featured as a successful case study in the Prime Minister’s 2018 Closing the Gap Report, stating ‘outstanding local solutions, delivering exciting outcomes’.
Caroline de Mori
P: 0418 919 064