Language of food connects First Nations people to country, culture and better health

Tracy Hardy gives her plenary presentation at the conference. Photo supplied by Dietitians Association of Australia.

Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD) and proud Kamilaroi woman, Tracy Hardy has been speaking at the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) National Conference, sharing how the language of food plays an essential role in connection to country and health.

During her conference presentation on Indigenous health, Ms Hardy encouraged people to increase their understanding of Australia’s Indigenous culture through talking about food.

“Connecting with your local Indigenous community and exchanging knowledge of food and cooking is an example of how we can work together, to build healthier communities across Australia,” Ms Hardy said.

Ms Hardy highlighted how culture, identity, resilience, confidence and a source of strength are protective factors in the health and well-being of Indigenous people.

“Food provides the opportunity for Indigenous peoples to reconnect to country and culture through stories of language, growing and preparation practices, food and cooking knowledge, and enjoying meals together,” Ms Hardy said.

To improve Indigenous health outcomes, Ms Hardy said respect and understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture in health care was needed.

“Our nation is home to the oldest, continuous Indigenous culture in the world. Embracing the rich and diverse traits between and within [Indigenous] cultures, particularly regarding food and nutrition, will provide opportunities to increase health prospects for Indigenous Australians,” Ms Hardy said.

Almost 80 percent of Indigenous Australians live in an urban environment and understanding this coexistence of traditional and modern food systems is a way to ensure the continued connection to culture while encouraging good health and well-being.

“Using traditional condiments such as lemon myrtle or salt bush to flavour urban dishes is just one example of this. As Indigenous Australians relocate to urban areas, knowledge of food and shared experiences instils pride and helps to foster a sense of solidarity and belonging within the community,” Ms Hardy said.

The Dietitians Association of Australia’s 36th National Conference ran this week from August 12 to August 14 at the Gold Coast Conference and Exhibition Centre.

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