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How colonisation has left a legacy of poor food choices for First Nations people

Jarred Cross -

The ongoing impacts of colonisation complicates healthy diets and relationships to food for First Nations people in semi-regional areas, a new study has found.

The Sax Institute study tapped into local Aboriginal medical services in Western Sydney and Wagga Wagga, where it found food security concerns were not just an issue in remote Aboriginal communities.

"Often people when they think of food insecurity, maybe they think of the more extreme food insecurity where people are starving," said Wotjobaluk woman and lead author of the study Simone Sherriff.

Ms Sherriff said fast food was often favoured over healthy option, which caused a direct link between financial disadvantage and weight gain, obesity and chronic disease.

"A family spoke about how they've got so much going on in their lives and stress and things sometimes you just need to make sure the kids are fed," she said.

"That's going down to the corner shop and getting $5 of hot chips.

"People described it as this mindset of clogging the kids up like feed them lots of white bread and potatoes and things like that to make sure they're full."

Ms Sherriff heard stories of taxis avoiding certain areas and difficulties with public transport limiting options when there was no family car.

She said those accessing food relief services at times felt targeted for taking too much when trying to provide for extended family.

Some were also deterred by the lasting impact of the Stolen Generations.

"People are really afraid to go and tell a white organisation I've run out of food, I can't afford to feed my family, can you help me," Ms Sherriff said.

"(They are) just so fearful to tell people because they're worried their kids will be taken."

Communities have felt initiatives encouraging nutritional food practices to be a forced colonisation measure stripping them of a familiar diet, the study found.

Devon, hot chips and the exclusive use of processed white flour sit among the list of adopted 'Aboriginal foods' to members of the community resistant to change.

"The Elders... were saying that people have become really protective over these," Ms Sherriff said.

"They thought they were taking away their culture and their practices by saying they got to be like those white fellas and eat this good way."

Following the research Ms Sherriff said Aboriginal led initiatives were the most likely to be effective method.

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