Healthy kids are a foundation for a healthy nation. It may surprise many that, some Australian families and kids in severely disadvantaged indigenous communities, lack even the basic resources and education, required to live a healthy life.

Facts like those below reveal the disheartening state of the health of our fellow Australians.

·         Aboriginal people are two and a half times more likely to have a potentially avoidable death than non-Aboriginal people.

·         There is a 19-year age gap in the life expectancy of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Australia.

·         The median weekly income of some families is as low as $200 a week.

Growing their own Fresh greens.

Growing their own Fresh greens.

In Aboriginal children the prevalence of Otis Media (OM) (leading to deafness) and Trachoma (increasing the risk of blindness) is worryingly high. Additionally – one in three Aboriginal people suffer from diabetes, often due to over consumption of fast food and poor diet.

What are we doing about it? OHO’s mission is no less than Health for All. To improve the health of our kids, in typical OHO fashion, we have formed a partnership between the community sector and businesses passionate about a social enterprise approach.

Thanks to Mackay Happy Herbs Shop, we are able to facilitate a program that is destined to have a real impact on the lives of these kids.  The Mackay Happy Herb Shop has created a grant for our Gunawirra project to fund a fantastic initiative called “the healthy Life program”.

The Healthy Life Program, created by the Gunawirra project team is focused on disadvantaged children aged 3-6 years. The program engages children in a culturally appropriate way with the use of songs, games, puppets and art to learn about personal hygiene, basic health care and simple nutrition. By teaching little ones in this manner, significant improvements to primary health care can be created. The program also aims to reduce longer-term chronic health problems and ultimately reducing the difference in the life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

Learning and playing in the garden

Learning and playing in the garden

All Gunawirra’s Project initiatives are designed by top level, experienced professionals and Aboriginal elders to create models of excellence. The Gunawirra team have been working with these preschools for the past five years and has a strong relationship on which to build this project.

Where is it Happening? The program delivers ten one hour sessions in the partner pre-schools in NSW, viz. the Little Yuin Aboriginal Pre-School and their families in Lake Wallaga region, Poets Corner in Waterloo, Jarjum Aboriginal School Redfern, Toomelah in Northern NSW, and Toukley Central Coast.

How Does it Work? The Gunawirra project helps develop a garden in each school to grow bush tucker, vegetables and fruit trees. Teaching sessions have a strong emphasis on the use of songs and dances with Aboriginal context around the issues of healthy bodies, cleaning yourself, respecting your body.

Excursions to local shops to see how food is stored, shopping, (free piece of fruit for each child) Cooking days are organized for mothers of the children with social fun communal days Camp fire stories of bush tucker from the elders.

Aboriginal artists and cultural graduates visit and tell stories from the dream time around health, and food, engaging the children in painting and drawing.

Happy and healthy child

Happy and healthy child

After completion of the health and nutrition modules each child receives a health care pack which includes a washer, soap, tooth paste and tooth brush, antiseptic cream, band-aids, underwear, socks and singlets. The packs are donated by St. George Bank Staff preschools in the area of Redfern and surrounding suburbs, and Queenwood School.

OHO would like to thank the Mackay Happy Herb Shop for their ongoing support in facilitating this unique project. We will keep you updated on its progress.