A holiday trip to Palm Island in 2008 shocked Norma Tracey, aged 71, when she saw firsthand the truly massive health gaps for Aboriginal people. She immediately invited 21 health and education professionals including 8 Aboriginal elders, to come to an urgent meeting to discuss what could be done. Of the 21 invited, 21 came, and the Gunawirra early intervention program was born.
"This is the welfare generation, and that is incredibly sad. That will be judged in history as being far worse, I believe, than the stolen generation, because we are literally losing thousands and thousands of our indigenous brothers and sisters to the effects of welfare – drugs, low morale and alcoholism. I see it everyday and it can stop. The solution is education, training and a guaranteed opportunity."         ANDREW FORREST
The Gunawirra nutrition project is an early intervention initiative for indigenous children aged six years and under. It seeks to impart healthy eating skills and opportunities via cooking classes and community gardens. The gardens also feature bush medicine and bush tucker, and are therefore an important part of upholding, honour and teaching culture. Fruit and vegetable consumption is strongly linked to the prevention of many chronic diseases currently prevalent in indigenous communities and to better health in general as attested by the Australian Bureau of Statistics: 'Many of the principal causes of ill-health among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are diseases that can be affected by poor nutrition, such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and kidney disease (AHMAC 2006). In 2003, insufficient fruit and vegetable consumption contributed to 3% of the total burden of disease and 6% of deaths for Indigenous Australians (Vos et al 2007)'. (NHMRC 2003a, NHMRC 2003b).
"You fellas helped me get off drugs and grog, and now you fellas going to teach me to do something good for my four kids, Like cook. No one ever showed me how to cook. Lets us mums take stuff out of the garden and let’s cook!"   Mother of a child participating in the Gunawirra Gardens Project
Early intervention programs are now widely acknowledged for their deep value and lasting impact. In addition to the obvious moral imperatives, studies show that for every dollar invested stands to return up to seventeen dollars to society as a whole. The Gunawirra project acknowledges the families it works with as a community, and as deserving our respect as the custodians of this land and of an ancient and remarkable culture. We work with each community in the way they choose and on the problems they name.

“OHO is our partner and we are so proud of that. They keep us in touch with our vision, with the earth with nature, with healing. We get despondent and they seem to have only space for hope and a desire to help. The money is great, like mana from heaven, but the big thing they give us is care by valuing what we do”
Norma Tracy, Project Founder

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