At the start of 2020 while many of us were coming to terms with COVID, Joshua from Elcho Island had triple bypass surgery to rectify his serious heart problems. It was a turning point in his life that helped him reset his priorities.
Joshua is a reflection of the many risk factors faced by Yolngu people. Chronic disadvantage not only affects education, food security, employment and housing but also contributes to unhealthy diets high in sugar and salt, tobacco and physical inactivity.
Tearfund partner, Hope For Health, is an innovative, community-driven education approach to developing healthy nutrition and lifestyle for Yolngu people of East Arnhem Land. The program combines modern approaches to nutrition and health with traditional Yolngu practices, so people can make healthy lifestyle choices and prevent chronic conditions.
Tearfund provides support for Australia's First Peoples through programs led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian leaders. Together, we mobilise Australian Christians for a more just and equitable society for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
In 2019 Joshua had attended a Hope For Health Health retreat as a participant and was later employed in the program assisting with general maintenance of equipment and properties on Elcho Island. It wasn’t till after his heart surgery, however, that he began showing greater interest in improving his overall health and fitness. His attitude and motivation towards improving his health outcomes increased significantly.
After his surgery he began with daily early morning gentle exercise and walking sessions with fellow health coach mentors to establish a daily routine and began to consume foods more consciously, mindful of the nutritional value of foods he was eating.
Joshua wanted to extend his involvement in the Hope for Health staff team by attending the health coaching workshops throughout the year, conducted by Hope For Health Educator (Tim Trudgen) and together with mentoring from the full time Health Coach Mentor in community, Joshua built a greater understanding of health and nutrition and how to communicate this to others in his community.
To share the story of his health gains, Joshua posted images and messages on his personal social media page relating to good health, physical exercise, hunting for traditional foods and the enjoyment experienced by his family in consuming traditional foods.
Joshua’s role in the staff team has grown significantly in 2020 He is now taking a role in initiating hunting trips and encouraging HFH participants to join in. Joshua also supports cooking classes, Yolngu Beach oven events and local community events. He also hosts a stall at local community events to promote healthy eating.
In October 2020, Joshua and other local staff took a group of Hope For Health participants to a well-known area called Rogers Creek, for gathering maypul (shellfish). Joshua describes the long walk through the bush and mangroves and swamps as being hard work and good exercise. Along the way the group talked about the strength it took to walk the distance, through mud, the digging and carrying the muscles in bags and containers back to the vehicle. Everyone found it hard work, but were happy to be building strength and gathering manymak ngatha (good food).
Through the health coaching workshops and on-going mentoring from Hope for Health staff, Joshua is building the necessary skills, knowledge and confidence to take the next steps to work as a local health coach in his community.
Tearfund partner Hope for Health run health retreats, health coaching and regular medical checkups on Elcho Island in the Northern Territory. They have had a significant impact on the lives of many Yolngu women and men.
You can make a donation to support transformative initiatives like Hope for Health in partnership with and led by First Peoples of Australia.
Images used with permission.