Food security an ‘urgent’ issue for remote communities: AMSANT boss

Story by Sarah Matthews, NT News

Link to article in the NT News.

An increase to JobSeeker and other federal government subsidies is needed so people in remote communities can afford to buy healthy food, according to the AMSANT boss.

He said an increase in welfare was one of the key takeaways from this year’s AMSANT Food Security Summit, held in Alice Springs late last month.

Mr Paterson said the summit, attended by representatives from remote communities across the Territory, aimed to address one of the most pressing issues Indigenous communities were facing – food security.

“Given the current pandemic, and when we were in lengthy lockdown periods when food products were very limited, we saw products walking off the shelves,” he said.

“It had twice the impact on remote communities.

“All their shelves were basically bare.”

“Now the time is perfect for all to figure out how we can best put in strategies and systems and processes so we don’t find ourselves in a similar situation (again).”

Mr Paterson said poverty was a major contributor to Indigenous Territorians not having access to healthy food.

“It’s a great opportunity for the Commonwealth Aboriginal Workforce Program and Jobseeker to be reformed in a way that enables the employment of those in the food security industry,” he said.

“Currently they (welfare payments like JobSeeker) don’t provide enough support for people to afford healthy food. They need to support people to able to have long-term sustainable jobs so they have a good income and can afford healthy food.”

Mr Paterson said the summit was seeking to establish a storage container in the Territory for non-perishable food items in the event of an emergency or natural disaster.

He said moving forward, AMSANT was seeking federal government funding for another summit in 12 months “given the urgency of food security now and making sure we’re well-prepared for any future disasters or pandemics”.

Former senator and Olympian Nova Peris also attended the summit for a presentation of her Food Ladder project, which provides hydroponic greenhouses to remote communities.

The project, which Ms Peris is doing in partnership with former Territory MLA Ken Vowles, aims to help remote communities with food supply issues.

“The lockdown has been tough for remote people that have had problems with food and supplies. “There is so much we think we can do to help” Ms Peris told the NT News last year.

“Ken and I want to give back through the foundation.”