• To develop a structure/ model to support the development of a healthy eating environment by working with remote Aboriginal communities to build the capacity of their community groups, store committees and other stakeholders involved in food-related services and activities

Good nutrition throughout life is fundamental to the prevention of disease. Remote communities are in a unique position to build a strong food system due to their size, collective sense of community and store ownership arrangements. Working together to build an a strong food system to provide good nutrition is essential to overcome many obstacles faced by remote communities such as isolation, costs of food, short term programs, and limited access to resources to support decision making.

The project supports local community co-ordinators to drive regular multi-sector meetings at the community level. Principles of Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) are used.

A number of practical and interactive planning and monitoring tools that support decision making have been developed and used to support planning, reflection and feedback, these include:

  • Good Food Planning Tool
  • Stores Checklist
  • RIST Keeping track of Healthy Foods tool and food sales reports
  • Capacity Building Assessment Tool.

The Good Food Planning Tool enables the assessment of goals important to food security. It provides a practical visual tool to consider the whole food system in relation to food security and determine which areas are strong and which areas can be strengthened to facilitate action in communities for nutrition improvement.

The Capacity Building Assessment tool supports the assessment of the capacity of multi-sector groups within the community to work together to tackle issues for social and health improvement.

The future plan for the Good Food Systems project is to support wider use of the Good Food Systems tools, through providing training and support. 

Implications for policy and practice:

Nutrition and food security is the responsibility of everyone – it requires the involvement of all sectors. The a structure/ model developed in this project facilitate sectors (from store associations, the public health nutrition community, remote communities to the government and non-government sector) to work together to tackle nutrition at the community level and to access evidence needed to drive change.

Our research has developed tools based on best available expert knowledge that are relevant to the specific user-group. These tools support capacity building of communities to improve nutrition by  supporting communities to collect information, plan and make changes.  

Our research has found:
  • In working to improve food security in a remote community context, the single act of bringing together and facilitating a multi-sector group in a remote community concerned with food security is an important outcome in itself
  • Initially, the building of relationships and the process of shared learning may be all that can be achieved in the first few meetings of a multi-sector good food group in a remote community context and needs to be given the attention it requires. Through this process, people learn about different people’s roles and responsibilities, gain insight into where there are potential opportunities for linking and support and build an appreciation of the components of the food system
  • We found in each community that the Good Food Systems process and tools provided a welcome and useful structure through which community members and other stakeholders could make an assessment of progress, and identify enablers or obstacles to food security
  • Supporting local people to co-ordinate and take a lead in facilitating meetings was important in building community capacity both to consider best practice for community level food security and to participate in the decision-making process.
  • We have developed a structure/ model to support the development of a healthy eating environment by working with remote Aboriginal communities to build the capacity of their community groups, store committees and other stakeholders involved in food-related services and activities. Further research is required to assess the impact of the Good Food Systems approach on the performance of the food system and food security. 
Chief investigator:
Project manager:
Contact information:
Project dates:

The project commenced in June 2009 and is due for completion in June 2014.

  • National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) 
  • Mary MacKillop Foundation- funding a half year follow up in Nyirripi community.
  • Dr Elaine Lawurrpa Maypilama
  • Jacob Spencer
  • Frank Nadjalaburnburn
  • Cheryl Nadjalaburnburn
  • Harry Bowen
  • Tania Deemal
  • Professor Ross Bailie, Menzies School of Health Research
  • Professor John Coveney, Flinders University
  • Dr Beverley Wood
  • Associate Professor Jan Ritchie, University of New South Wales (UNSW)
  • Clare Brown, Arnhem Land Progress Association (ALPA)
  • Alison Rogers, The Fred Hollows Foundation
  • Vivienne Hobson, Northern Territory Department of Health.
  1. Liberato, S.C., Brimblecombe, J., Ritchie, J., Ferguson, M., & Coveney, J. (2011). Measuring capacity building in communities: a review of the literature. BioMed Central Public Health, 11(850).