Kirsten Sweeney (right) recently volunteered in the Northern Territory to help educate Indigenous Australian on healthy diet and lifestyle.
Kirsten Sweeney (right) recently volunteered in the Northern Territory to help educate Indigenous Australian on healthy diet and lifestyle.

Education key to health

MANY living in the Noosa region know the importance of a healthy lifestyle and now, one local has taken that eduction to indigenous Australians in remote areas.

Peregian Springs naturopath and nutritionist Kirsten Sweeney recently embarked on a journey to Riyala, 45 minutes south of Darwin, where she volunteered at an indigenous health retreat.

"The indigenous are now dying in their 40s and 50s of chronic health diseases such as diabetes, obesity, kidney disease (and) cardiovascular disease, because of eating a western diet of too much refined sugar, soft drinks, junk food, and also due to smoking,” Ms Sweeney said.

"I have just been up to Darwin ... to help the Yolngu people of Elcho Island get healthy once again by going back to their grassroots of culture.”

Not-for-profit organisation Hope for Health ran the retreat, which brought volunteers together from across Australia "to help facilitate, support, learn and educate”.

"I looked at their holistic lifestyle, from their family to their everyday life,” she said.

"One of the biggest things is educating them on the effects of sugar.”

She said education was about creating a lifestyle change and looking at food as medicine.

"There are two funerals on their island every week from chronic health-related deaths,” she said.

Ms Sweeney said it was an eye-opening experience and while she was there to teach the locals, she left feeling she learnt just as much.

"For me this journey was about growth, learning and connection. I have always wanted to connect, learn about and give back to the indigenous people of Australia,” she said.

"I have learnt so much about the history of the indigenous people and the lack of understanding that exists because of ineffective and poor communication between the indigenous people and western society.”

The work will continue through Together Retreats and Ms Sweeney said a health coach had been placed on Elcho Island to to work with the community.

"It's a work in progress. If we can start there it's going to have a big impact,” she said.


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