The following table outlines important dates for the changes to food sourcing and supplies, and the APY Lands as a whole. As you will see, Anangu have changed their diets significantly and in a very short period of time. There are still people alive today who remember their first contact with non-aboriginal people.

Pre contact

“Anangu experienced seasonal privation, but, in the main, the diet was characterised as a ‘diverse, nutrient rich, seasonally variable diet requiring effort, knowledge of environment and a range of skills” Considering the changing environment of the indigenous child, 1999

1870 - 1940s

First contact period


Anangu started moving into communities including Ernabella Mission, Areyonga, Indulkana and Warburton (mostly eastern communities)


A sheep lease at Ernabella (Pukatja) in the east of the APY Lands was first taken up.


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml
Ernabella Arts founded, providing an income to artists. http://www.ernabellaarts.com.au/


Long drought forces a large group of Western Pitjantjatjara people, nearly 200, to move to Ernabella

1961- 1962

Anangu begin moving from Ernabella back towards the west to Amata, a reserve established by the South Australian Government (formerly Musgrave Park)

      - 1960s

Aboriginal men labouring in the cattle and agricultural industries we paid in rations until the late 1960s.
Families obtained foodstuffs from the station store
A pattern of central supply points persisted until the 1970s in remote areas


Anangu made a concerted effort to return to homelands, firstly to return home, and secondly to get away from social issues such as petrol sniffing and alcoholism
Anangu were relying on both bush food sources, as well as stores, but both were unreliable.
By 1975, over 300 Western Desert people had left Amata, Ernabella and Warburton to live in their own country in the Tomkinson Ranges. It was also necessary to travel 30 to 50kms from camps in search of game.


Under the Whitlam Government, a Federal Department of Aboriginal Affairs was established, and it became possible to seek direct funding to incorporated Aboriginal Organisations


Cessation of Department of Community Welfare (DCW) truck deliveries of stores from Amata Reserve to western camps.
Pipalyatjara Store opens with a few bags of flour, no credit, five dollars in capital and debts of $2500 to the South Australian Government owned Amata Store.


Pitjantjatjara Council formed
Agreement reached with Northern Transport to fly fresh meat, bread, fruit and ice-cream, weekly, for western communities to share.


Pitjantjatjara Homelands Health Service started
Alma Ata Declaration, World Health Organisation http://www.who.int/hpr/NPH/docs/declaration_almaata.pdf


Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (NPY) Women's Council formed http://www.npywc.org.au/


Pitjantjatjara Council operated a nursery, providing shade and fruit trees for communities. Funding was terminated in 1996


Pitjantjatjara Land Rights Act gives title for North West Reserve of South Australia to Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (statutory landholding body). http://www.anangu.com.au/

1982 & 83

Elspeth Young’s study found Anangu derived only ‘part of their sustenance from purchased foods and have come to depend on other material goods that can only be obtained through cash trading”.


Bi-lingual handbook written, highlighting the need for awareness and education about dealing with whitefellers’ tucker, Health Wakukau Maitjara Nyanga (Health Worker’s Nutrition Handbook for Central Australia).
Nganampa Health Council formed.


Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion, World Health Organisation http://www.who.int/hpr/NPH/docs/ottawa_charter_hp.pdf


UPK Report identified the Nine Healthy Living Practices of UPK, which people needed to be able to have the capacity to do in their houses to improve health, including storage and preparation of healthy food. http://iceh.uws.edu.au/docs/healthy_living_practices.html


The community-driven nutrition intervention “Mai Wiru” (good Food) project was initiated in Pukatja.

1990- 1994

Healthy Stores Group co-operatively attempted to get store managers and health service organisations in central Australia to work together to develop good nutrition policies and practices within community stores.


Commonwealth Government Food and Nutrition Policy released, by Commonwealth Department of Health, Housing and Community Services, Canberra.


South Australian Centre for Economic Studies found that Anangu were living in poverty.


International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1996

NPY Women’s Council Nutrition Awareness Project for Young Mothers and Children delivered in communities on the APY Lands begins (still ongoing).

HACC Community Meals Program, administered by Nganampa Health, begins at Indulkana


Surveys on the cost of market baskets across regional Queensland, South Australia and Northern Territory find foods are between 74% and 100% higher than the nearest capital city.


The World Health Organisation released Report on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nutrition, highlighting malnutrition in indigenous populations. http://www.who.int/en/
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nutrition Working Party released Report on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nutrition highlighting mortality rates can fall with improved living conditions, improved nutrition and more access to medical services.
Ananguku Arts and Culture Aboriginal Corporation founded (inc. 2002) http://www.anangukuarts.com.au/


APY Executive meeting resolved to address Food Security formally.

Cost of living on the AP Lands study carried out, showing the stores are not enterprises, and spelt out the link between poverty and food security LINK

Study of store infrastructure found store (including stores at Pipalyatjara and Watarru that were operating out of shipping containers without reliable refrigeration) required minor to substantial upgrading to comply with building, health and environmental standards.


Public Health Association of Australia 1999 policy statement, Improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s access to the food they need.

Government of South Australia, Department of Human Services, Health Promotion SA – The South Australian Food and Health Policy.

Northern Territory Legislative Assembly review found food prices were not likely to decrease without regulatory intervention, unless there was a substantial increase in population, economies of scale and infrastructure.


House of Representatives Inquiry into Indigenous Health recommends ‘some form of freight equalisation such as that applying to Tasmania’ for the APY Lands. Also recommended Store Employees receive education in health and nutrition.

National Nutrition Policy 2000-2010 released by containing a specific Indigenous policy (NATSINSAP – National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nutrition Strategy and Action Plan) to improve the nutrition of Indigenous Australians over the next ten year period.

Public Kitchen at Kalka was set up at the request of several senior women, and used to prepare meals for aged and disabled people


Mai Wiru Regional Stores Policy ratified by NPY Women’s Council, and all community councils.


Publication of the Mai Wiru Regional Stores Policy for the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands.

By 2002 it was commonly accepted that the community stores are the main source of food and variety goods for Aboriginal People on the APY Lands, Mai Wiru Regional Stores Policy 2002

New stores were built at Pipalyatjara, Mimili, Kaltjiti and Watarru. The stores at Iwantja (Indulkana), Pukatja (Ernabella), Amata and Kanpi were upgraded.


Mai Wiru Regional Stores Council Aboriginal Corporation incorporated