Australian Journal of Primary Health Australian Journal of Primary Health Society
The issues influencing community health services and primary health care

Family food work: lessons learned from urban Aboriginal women about nutrition promotion

Wendy Foley
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Inala Indigenous Health Service, 64 Wirraway Parade, Inala, Qld 4077, Australia. Email:

Australian Journal of Primary Health 16(3) 268-274
Published: 6 September 2010


This article reports on ethnographic study of urban Aboriginal family food and implications for nutrition promotion. Data were collected over 2 years through in-depth interviews and participant observation in groups conducted through Indigenous organisations in a suburb of Brisbane. Issues when organising family food include affordability, keeping family members satisfied and being able to share food, a lack of cooking ideas, the accessibility of nutrition information, additional work involved in ensuring healthy eating, and a desire for convenience. Many different health professionals provide nutrition advice, often directing it towards individuals and not providing adequate guidance to facilitate implementation. The easiest advice to implement worked from existing household food practices, skills and budget. Cooking workshops helped to provide opportunities to experiment with recommended foods so that women could confidently introduce them at home. Aboriginal women are concerned about healthy eating for their families. Disadvantage can limit dietary change and the complexity of family food work is often underestimated in nutrition promotion. Household, rather than individual, framing of nutrition promotion can lead to more sustainable healthy eating changes.

Additional keywords: Australia, cooking, Indigenous.


I would like to thank all study participants for their generosity. Helpful comments on a draft paper were gratefully received from Sharon Laurence and Sally Spurr and two anonymous reviewers. This study was supported by a National Health and Medical Research Council Scholarship in Indigenous Health Research and the Queensland Government Growing the Smart State PhD Funding Program.


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1 National Aboriginal Islander Day Observance Committee celebrations are held in July each year to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

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