• To gain an understanding of people’s diet in remote communities, changes required to improve the diet, the cost of these changes and the health and economic benefits of eating a healthy diet. 

The cost of food compared to people’s income is commonly reported as a barrier to consuming a healthy diet. 

Three Northern Territory communities agreed to participate in the study, which involved collecting store sales reports and food service invoices from July 2010 – June 2011. This information provided a picture of what was eaten by the total population in the three communities for one year (excluding traditional foods and foods not bought in the community). 

This information was analysed and models were built to determine the cost and health impact of changes to the current diet.

Implications for policy and practice:

This is the first study to provide a complete story of the foods eaten by whole communities in remote Australia and provides evidence on changes required to the diet at minimum cost.

Our research has found:  
  • Very poor dietary quality continues to be a characteristic of community nutrition profiles since the earliest studies almost three decades ago
  • Significant proportions of key micronutrients are provided from poor quality nutrient-fortified processed foods, rather than nutrient-rich, minimally-processed foods
  • Further evidence regarding the impact of the cost of food on food purchasing in this context is urgently needed and should include cost benefit analysis of improved dietary intake on health outcomes.
Chief investigator:
Project manager:
  • Contact information:
Project dates:

This project was completed in 2011.

  • National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Equity Council. 
  • Deakin University
  • CSIRO.
  1. MJA: Characteristics of the community-level diet of Aboriginal people in remote northern Australia


    To describe the nutritional quality of community-level diets in remote northern Australian communities.

  2. Research reveals concerning nutrition outcomes in remote communities


  1. Brimblecombe, J., Ferguson, M., Liberato, S., & O'Dea, K. (2013). Characteristics of the community-level diet in remote Aboriginal northern Australia. Medical Journal of Australia, 198(7), 380-4.
  2. Brimblecombe, J., Ferguson, M., Liberato, S.C., O’Dea, K., & Riley, M. (2013). Optimisation Modelling to Assess Cost of Dietary Improvement in Remote Aboriginal Australia. PLoS ONE, 8(12).