HealthNews & Projects

Part 4: The Life Changing Results Of A Traditional Diet

Towards the end of our week on Elcho Island we were in and out of consultations and meetings. These consultations took place in Tim and Kama’s office and also my preferred consultation office, which is outside on the ground under the shade of the trees. We were able to have relaxed and open conversations about health and supported them in ways that were real and personal for them.

Tim and Kama Trudgen do such a fantastic job of bridging the gap between the Yolngu women, nutrition and all the complexities it encompasses. There is so much time dedicated to teaching them about nutritional foods and how to prepare them. Translation is also another essential part of the process and I was thankful for the time they took in relaying information in a way that was relaxed and comfortable but also engaged them in actively sharing their struggles, concerns, questions and ideas.

Jess and Joan discussing health over some high fat, low carb snacks such as eggs, almonds and soft cheese.

Jess and Joan discussing health over some high fat, low carb snacks such as eggs, almonds and soft cheese.

We discussed at great lengths some of the challenges that the women have faced since returning from Living Valley Springs and many of these challenges they had no control over. They have had things such as cyclone recovery projects, house relocations, social pressures, community complexities, stress from multiple areas and a lack of access to good quality food. I was so inspired by the women’s perseverance despite the challenges they have experienced as they remained as committed as they could with the limited resources they had. Its made me realised that these struggles they have experienced, have cultivated the strength and resilience they now possess to continue forward.

Some of the women told me there were days they felt like giving up (don’t we all) and thought it was too difficult to give up things they have always used for comfort in times of stress, however they committed to the process because every day they felt better than they did before they started on this journey. Since going to Elcho Island I have started to get a glimpse into the context of health as the Yolngu people know it and now understand just how much this has been such a monumentous leap of faith and trust in something that was completely foreign and initially, slightly uncomfortable but they gave it their all anyway!

We have encouraged every step of the way, a model of health that encourages the traditional foods and culture that the Yolngu people have always known. This is because their body is biochemically and genetically primed for traditional food and its amazing to see the psychological, mental, biochemical, spiritual and nutritional benefits that this approach has produced.

This is an inflight meal the ladies called, 'Diabetes in a box.'

This is an in-flight meal the ladies now call, ‘Diabetes in a box.’


This is how excited they are about bringing their own in-flight meal.

This is their new recommendations for in-flight meals. Avocado!

The Yolngu women had such fantastic results during their stay at Living Valley Springs as we combined experience with information and got back to empowering them to use traditional food as medicine. So now, after follow up, not only do their blood test results show even more positive outcomes on a long term scale, but they have experienced it in a real tangible way for themselves. One of the ladies said because she now knows what health feels like she doesn’t ever want to go back to what she was doing. She cannot believe how unwell she was feeling and she use to think that was just ‘normal.’

Across the board all the ladies have had great improvements in different aspects of their health. Cholesterol levels have been regulated, blood glucose levels have stabilised, cardiovascular parameters have normalised and there has been significant weight loss. The ladies have done so well the onsite doctor has reduced some of the ladies medication in those areas, with a few of the ladies completely stopping smoking as well.

I spoke with an anthropologist named Sue who worked in the community a number of years ago and said that when she came back to Elcho Island she could hardly recognise some of the ladies after their detox and couldn’t believe that some of the ladies had stopped smoking. She had never seen them without cigarettes and said that it was the hardest thing for the Yolngu people to give up because of its social aspect.

The good news of health has had such a ripple effect in the community. There were so many beautiful Yolngu people we met along the way and each and everyone of them knew who we were and what we were a part of. This opened up casual conversations in the street about food and nutrition. Since the ladies returned from Living Valley Springs and went back to their Traditional diet, families, friends and community can see how much of a difference this has made in their life and they are so willing to be a part of this hope found in health.

Some of the ladies are now so passionate about their health they carry their nutritional products and low carb snacks with them everywhere. One day we farewelled some ladies off at the airport and I asked them what they were taking with them to Darwin and they laughed and proceeded to show me their nutritional products and avocados. Health really is the new found wealth here!

Dorothy on the left with her bag of inflight nutritional goodies. Green barley powder, supplements and avocado.

Dorothy on the left with her bag of inflight nutritional goodies. Green barley powder, supplements and avocado.

In other great news some of the ladies have been selected as Diabetes Health Educators and Health Coaches due to their fantastic results and new found passion in health. Just like the controlled fires that the Yolngu people have been using for hundreds of years to cleanse the land and promote flourishing growth, the Yolngu women also want health to have the same effect in the community. That it may catch on so people may start to have their own real and raw experience with health just like they have. As with any experience it may initially be a little uncomfortable and may ‘burn’ just a little, but in the process cleanses, renews and regenerates for the long term. This experience cultivates a relationship with health that runs far deeper than nutrition. It touches every aspect of their life as they connect and support each other along a path that will ultimately lead to preserving their culture and history for future generations to come.

Smoke from controlled burns bringing colour to our last sunset on Elcho.

Smoke from controlled burns bringing colour to our last sunset on Elcho.

There are still so many things that the Hope4Health team needs to facilitate ongoing support in Yolngu health. With their ultimate goal of opening an Island Health Retreat, they still need to start with basic needs such as cooking utensils, appliances and a boat for more efficient hunting. This will enable access to nutritional food while still supporting the therapeutic and traditional methods of obtaining that food. When Kama and I discussed ways of providing financial awareness for Yolngu Hope4Health items and especially the boat, Kama said, “If we got a boat that would be life changing. It would open up more opportunities for hunting and access to food that inevitably preserves and supports traditional culture.’’ Now we need to just get them that boat!

Elcho Island and its map of where the traditional foods are located for hunting.

Elcho Island and its map of where the traditional foods are located for hunting.

So now its up to you and me to do our part, so that health can go back into the hands of the Yolngu people. We are looking at fundraising and awareness projects in the future however there is so much we can do now. At the bottom of this page is a list of items that the Hope4Health team need to continue to move forward on this journey. There are a couple of ways to donate to Hope4Health. One is through onehealthorganisation and the other is directly to the Hope4Health fund. Please write your name and what you would like your donation to go towards in the billing information.

I am so excited for the future in Yolngu health as they continue to re-claim their knowledge in traditional health and use it as a way forward. This experience will continue to provide real tangible change that touches every aspect of themselves, their family, their community and their culture forever. So partner with us in our quest for the restoration in indigenous health and stay tuned as we continue on this exciting journey because everyone should have the opportunity to experience ultimate health and wellness. People matter.


Hope4Health Needs

  • Fridge
  • Large deep freezer
  • Shelving
  • Lockable cupboards
  • Dinner plates x 20
  • Bowls x 20
  • Glasses x 20
  • Mugs x 20
  • Salad bowls large x 5
  • Mixing bowls x 5
  • Cutlery- knives, forks, spoons, teaspoons, x 20
  • Serving spoons x 5
  • Wooden spoons x 5
  • Flippers x 5
  • Peelers x 5
  • Graters x 2
  • Spiralizer
  • Mandolin
  • Chopping boards x 5
  • Saucepans x 5
  • Fry pans x 5
  • Stock pot
  • Blender
  • Juicer
  • Slow cooker
  • Dehydrator
  • Nut butter maker
  • Large television screen
  • Laptop
  • Yoga Mats
  • Computer software for laptop
  • Phone
  • Laminator- large
  • Filing cabinet
  • Desks x 3
  • Office chairs x 3
  • Dining tables x 2
  • Dining table chairs x 20
  • Vehicle
  • Boat
  • Fishing net
  • Fishing lines
  • Oyster hammers
  • Axe/machete
  • Camping set of mugs/cups/plates/bowls/cutlery
  • Camping cooking pot and fry pan
  • Scales
  • Sphygmometer
  • Glucometer
  • Stethoscope
  • Tape measure
Jessica Gaunt

Author Jessica Gaunt

Jess brings a passion for women’s health, excitement for life and an infectious laugh to the medical team at Living Valley Health Retreat!

More posts by Jessica Gaunt

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