• To explore strategies and approaches to facilitate collaborative work between nutritionists and community health staff and members that focuses on culturally meaningful nutrition and health promotion that is inclusive of Indigenous knowledge and beliefs.
  • To develop a teaching and learning resource for non-Indigenous health staff working in nutrition and health education and promotion.
  • To provide practical guidance to support critical reflective practice and assist with the participatory process of health and nutrition communication and development of education and promotion resources and activities that integrate both Indigenous and western belief and knowledge systems.
  • To assist health professionals working in nutrition and other health-related areas to work within a strength-based approach, while being aware of and possessing insights into how best to address and manage the challenges and perceived barriers that can be present in remote community health.
  • To empower Indigenous people to more effective ways of communicating healthy eating and shopping messages.
  • To improve the health of people in remote Indigenous communities.

The project and resource was conceived in response to concerns voiced over the years by a number of local Aboriginal people, leaders and stakeholders from communities with whom Menzies and The Fred Hollows Foundation work regarding diet-related issues and poor health in their communities.

These people identified a need for collaborative work between nutritionists, health staff and relevant people within communities to explore and focus on health-promoting activities that are culturally integrated and inclusive of Indigenous knowledge and beliefs.

Implementation of the project and development of the final resource entailed:

  1. A comprehensive literature review
  2. On-going consultations with Indigenous and non-Indigenous advisors
  3. Formative and collaborative action research in a remote Aboriginal community to explore strategies to provide culturally sensitive information and approaches to support food choice and health
  4. Qualitative research among remote nutritionists to explore and describe the practices, perceived challenges and potential ways forward in relation to their educative role
  5. Reflective and reflexive practice and strength-based approaches.
Chief investigator:
  • Dr Susan Colles
Project manager:
  • Dr Susan Colles
Contact information:
Project dates:

The project commenced in April 2012 and was completed in 2014 with the release of the guide, Food & Health Communication Across Cultures in 2015

  • The Fred Hollows Foundation

Co-researchers and key advisors:

  • Dr Elaine Lawurrpa Maypilama, researcher, Menzies School of Health Research
  • Assoc Prof Julie Brimblecombe, senior research fellow, Menzies School of Health Research.

Key advisors:

  • Alice Mitchell, community education consultant, Menzies School of Health Research
  • Alison Rogers, development effectiveness coordinator, Indigenous Australia Program, The Fred Hollows Foundation
  • Dr Anne Lowell, principal research fellow, Research Centre for Health & Wellbeing, CDU
  • Bernie Shields, Senior Aboriginal health promotion officer, NT Department of Health
  • Christel Van Den Boogaard, project manager and research associate, Menzies School of Health Research
  • Dr Jeannie Devitt, Anthropologist, Flinders University SA and Lowitja Institute
  • Professor Kerin O’Dea, University of South Australia
  • Professor Michael Christie, The Northern Institute, CDU
  • Noami Havens, Play and Learn Support (PALS) Resource Mentor/Trainer, Anglicare, NT
  • Robyn Williams, lecturer and PhD candidate, School of Health, CDU
  • Dr Suzanne Belton, senior lecturer, Menzies School of Health Research
  • Susannah Summons, dietitian/nutritionist
  • Vivienne Hobson, program leader nutrition and physical activity, NT Department of Health.

Community-based organisations:

  • Families as First Teachers (FAFT), Shepherdson College, whose staff and members contributed to the formative research and development of the Hissy Fit Discussion Board
  • The management and Aboriginal Health Workers at the Marthakal Homelands Health Service, who contributed expertise on health communication and promotion

Resource reviewers and contributors:

  • Dr Annabelle Wilson, accredited practising dietitian/accredited nutritionist, SA
  • Anthea Brand, public health nutritionist/dietitian, Central Australian Health Services, Department of Health, NT
  • Derlene Gray, advanced health worker, Nutrition Promotion, Apunipima Cape York Health Council, QLD
  • Frances Knight, project officer and public health nutritionist, Menzies School of Health Research, NT (& QLD)
  • Kirby Murtha, community nutritionist and dietitian, Apunipima Cape York Health Council, QLD
  • Robin Lion, Darwin senior community dietitian/nutritionist APD/APN, Department of Health, NT

Thanks to Elizabeth Howell, Illustrator, for her work on the images for the Hissy Fit and Food Discussion Boards



The food and health communication across cultures resource is designed for use in remote Indigenous communities and adaptable to local situations.

Click here to view the publication.

  1. Colles, S.L., Belton, S., & Brimblecombe, J. (2015). Insights into nutritionists' practices and experiences in remote Australian Aboriginal communities. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 15(2).
  2. Colles, S.L., Maypilama, E.,&  Brimblecombe, J. (2014). Food, food choice and nutrition promotion in a remote Australian Aboriginal community. (2014). Australian Journal of Primary Health, 20(4),3 65-72.