• To develop and test the feasibility of a multi-sector participatory approach to support the development of a healthy eating environment in remote Indigenous communities.

Good nutrition throughout life is fundamental to good health and wellbeing. 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 a strong food system for 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.

Six information sheets have been developed providing an overview of the Good Food Systems approach:

The information sheets include information on how to form a multi-stakeholder 'Good Food Group' in a community and a description of practical, interactive planning and monitoring tools which support decision making. The information sheets are available for download or purchase via the resources portal.


The Good Food Planning Tool enables the assessment of goals important to food security. It provides a practical visual tool for stakeholders to collectively appraise the whole food system in relation to food security in their community and show what has been done, what works well and what more could be done.

The Capacity Building Assessment Tool supports groups to appraise their capacity to work together to tackle issues for social and health improvement.

Implications for policy and practice:  

Nutrition and food security is everyone’s responsibility– it requires the commitment of all sectors. The Good Food Systems model supports sectors (community leaders, store boards, store associations, the public health nutrition community, and the government and non-government sector) to work together to tackle nutrition at the community level.

Our research has found:

The single act of facilitating dialogue between stakeholders in a remote community concerned with food security is an important outcome in itself.
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 and this 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.

The Good Food Systems model and tools provide a useful structure through which community members and other stakeholders can 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 is crucial to building community capacity to improve food security.

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 was completed in 2014.

  • National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) 
  • Mary MacKillop Foundation- funding a half year follow up in Nyirripi community.
  • Participating communities, store associations, Shire councils
Chief investigators:
  • A/Prof Julie Brimblecombe  (1st CI)
  • Professor Ross Bailie  (2nd CI)
Associate investigators:
  • Professor John Coveney, Flinders University
  • Dr Beverley Wood, honorary appointment, Menzies School of Health Research
  • 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
  • Megan Ferguson, Outback Stores (Menzies School of Health Research since 2010) 
Research team:
  • Dr Elaine ‘Lawurrpa’ Maypilama (community coordinator)
  • Jacob Spencer (community coordinator)
  • Frank Nadjalaburrnburrn (community coordinator)
  • Cheryl Nadjalaburrnburrn (community coordinator)
  • Harry Bowen (community coordinator)
  • Tania Deemal (community coordinator)
  • Dr Selma Liberato (research officer)
  • Adam Barnes (project officer)
  1. Brimblecombe, J., Bailie, R., van den Boogaard, C., Wood, B., Liberato, S., Ferguson, M. et al (2017). Feasibility of a novel participatory multi-sector continuous improvement approach to enhance food security in remote Indigenous Australian communities. SSM Population Health. In Press.
  2. Rogers, A., Megan, F., Ritchie, J., van den Boogaard, C., Brimblecombe, J., (2016). Strengthening food systems with remote Indigenous Australians: stakeholders’ perspectives. Health Promotion International, 1-11.
  3. Brimblecombe, J., van den Boogaard, C., Wood, B., Liberato, S.C., Brown, J., Barnes, A., et al. (2015). Development of the good food planning tool: A food system approach to food security in indigenous Australian remote communities. Health Place, 34I, 54-62.
  4. Brimblecombe, J., van den Boogaard, C., Ritchie, J., Bailie, R., Coveney, J., & Liberato, S. (2014). From targets to ripples: tracing the process of developing a community capacity building appraisal tool with remote Australian Indigenous communities to tackle food security. BMC Public Health, 14, 914.
  5. Liberato, S.C., Bailie, R., & Brimblecombe, J. (2014). Nutrition interventions at point-of-sale to encourage healthier food purchasing: a systematic review. BMC Public Health, 14, 919.
  6. 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).