Closing the gap with healthy food from, and for, the heart

WSLHD Aboriginal Health Close the Gap cooking challenge. Left to right: Blacktown and Mount Druitt Hospitals General Manager Ned Katrib, General Manager Integrated Care and Community Health General Manager Jasmin Ellis, Allied Health Director Jacquie Dominish, WSLHD Aboriginal Health Strategy Director Braiden Abala.

Butter crocodile, anyone?

Free, healthy cooking classes will soon be hitting the road in western Sydney thanks to a new initiative launched by Western Sydney Local Health District’s (WSLHD) Aboriginal Health Unit.

The scene resembled a Masterchef challenge today as four teams competed to create delicious Aboriginal cuisine to mark Close the Gap Day.

Observed annually on 18 March, Close the Gap Day is committed to narrowing the distance in health outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians.

The cook-off – an initiative of the Aboriginal Health Unit and National Heart Foundation – was promoting healthy eating to reduce the impact of cardiovascular disease.

Mt Druitt Aboriginal Hub Close the Gap Cooking competition.

Butter crocodile, kangaroo curry, salmon patties and beef stir fry were on the menu as teams from the WSLHD executive, Aboriginal Health, Greater Western Aboriginal Medical Services (GWAMS) and the Heart Foundation sharpened their knives.

Aboriginal Health Services Hub manager Belinda Cashman said the delicious meals whet her appetite for the new classes coming to western Sydney.

“I’d like to thank the National Heart Foundation for donating the purpose-built culinary trailer to the Aboriginal Health Unit,” Belinda said.

“The trailer will be rolled our across the western Sydney community to teach people how to cook healthy meals.”

The Mount Druitt Aboriginal Health Hub, in partnership with Youth Health and the Australian Botanical Gardens, supply fresh, home-grown vegetables and fruits for local Aboriginal families.

“We’re committed to improving the health and wellbeing of our Aboriginal communities with programs to improve life expectancy and quality of life for Aboriginal people,” Belinda said.

The cooking program joins other strategies for Western Sydney Aboriginal communities including:

  • the New Direction Program – running developmental health checks on Aboriginal children aged between 0-5 years
  • a Healthy Eating and Cooking program aimed to reduce diabetes and cardiovascular disease
  • Quit smoking programs

“We have strong partnerships and continue to work with our capital works programs to ensure we provide culturally safe spaces for our Aboriginal communities,” Belinda said.

Local indigenous man Jie Pittman.

National Close the Gap Day is a national day of action to pledge support for achieving Indigenous health equality by 2030.

If you are an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and would like more information contact the WSLHD Aboriginal Health Unit here.