The links between the provision of adequate supplies of food, and the health of Aboriginal people in remote communities in Australia have been well documented.
The need for a regional stores policy on the APY Lands was first identified in the 1987 Report of Uwankara Palyanku Kanyintjaku – An Environmental and Public Health Review and was recommended again in the Mai Wiru Nutrition Intervention at Pukatja in the early 1990’s.
In 1988 a cost of living study commissioned by Nganampa Health Council, showed that many Anangu (Aboriginal) families were without any food for up to three days per week, surviving on sugary tea and damper because they could not afford to buy sufficient food owing to income levels and systemic failures on the AY Lands.
The Mai Wiru Regional Stores Policy was developed in 2000 – 2001 as a participatory planning project carried out by Nganampa Health Council and Ngaanyatjarra Pitatjantjara Yankunytjatara Women’s Council, in conjunction with APY, and all Aboriginal Communities on the APY Lands. The Policy was signed off by all community councils and regional organisation’s in 2003.
This is the first Indigenous Policy of its kind dealing in food security. Mai Wiru won a national Heart Foundation award in 2008.
Through consultation, monitoring and new initiatives, including offering healthy alternatives, Mai Wiru has been instrumental in broaching the ongoing issue of Food Security on the APY Lands. There has been a significant improvement in food security, the range and quality of fresh fruit and vegetables, and healthy alternatives in community stores, since 2003. However, there is still much work to be done to ensure that Aboriginal people on the APY Lands and in remote communities are able to access healthy affordable food in their local store every day.
In 2018 the Board appointed a new Chief Executive Officer (CEO), instructing him to assess and revitalise the operations of the organisation, and ensure it is in a position where it is able to carry out its mandate while remaining financially viable. Mai Wiru is committed to best business practice systems, and has sophisticated processes in place designed to operate effectively in remote areas.
Watch below to see where we came from and where we are heading.