7th National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Environmental Health Conference Kalgoorlie, WA

Making Food Safety Training Culturally Appropriate

Page last updated: December 2010

Brendon Sherratt, Northern Territory Department of Health and Families

Good morning, firstly I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land on which we meet this week. This morning I want to share with you my experiences and challenges which I observed whilst delivering food safety programs in Kriol. To a family centre Beswick just outside of Katherine. I will give some information about Beswick; Beswick is a medium sized community which encompasses a local school food store, shire council office and health centre like most communities. It goes from the Stuart Highway right through to Gove in Arnhem Land. The Beswick family centre is responsible for the preparation and distribution of meals to the school program the crèche and the aged care program. The centre has a number of staff members that work for them usually 3-6 staff members at any one time mostly women but there are some guys that work for the centre as well that help out with cooking and tidying the yards. Because the family centre caters for those vulnerable population groups it was paramount that they under took some form of food safety training and to gain information and to take information from the Environmental Health Officer from Katherine.

With language as an immediate barrier Indigenous people begin to feel uncomfortable and tend to distance themselves from the presenter this I have noticed first hand when delivering food sessions or information sessions in the past. Traditionally food safety training and information sessions delivered in Australia use a scientific approach to explain germ theory including this approach in the scientific rational can be difficult to comprehend not just to the population groups that don’t speak English or English as a second language but to people that don’t have a science back ground.

A lot of the time non-Indigenous health and other agency professionals working in Indigenous communities take some cross cultural awareness programs prior to their commencement. This is an effort to bridge the gap in some way and get the awareness of the Indigenous culture to these new employees. Having some knowledge of the Indigenous cultures around the top end of the Northern Territory I believe cross cultural awareness is crucial when partaking in community based activities. My former colleague identified this as a barrier when he attempted to conduct food safety programs in another community just out of Katherine with very limited success couldn’t deliver the program effectively. So he then approached the local language centre in an effort to his avail they could do that and as a result the two formats were created a written version for those that could read Kriol and an audio version for those that could not.

So in the food session we deliver its still outlines the fundamentals of food safety programs like design as well as hand washing, temperature control, cleanliness, pest control and good hygiene practices. As a child growing up in Katherine I got the privilege of going to school and developing friendships with other children that spoke Kriol. Over my schooling years I began to understand and recognize some of the words that were spoken; some of the first words I learned weren’t the nicest and I won’t repeat them here today! So when I got the opportunity to deliver this resource I was very excited about the potential about the way in which this would influence the way in which I would deliver community based activities in the future.

When I first arrived at the family centre there were some women and a guy sat outside having a cup of tea. As I introduced myself I got the impression that I made them feel somewhat uncomfortable I believe this was because I was a young guy and because it was the first time I had met them.

I started the presentation with a generic spiel on food safety and what my roles and responsibilities are as an EHO. The participants were looking a little distracted at an early stage as this was not so familiar to them so after my introductions I started to play with the audio of a woman speaking in Kriol in sync with the slide presentation. The presentation was projected onto a wall for better viewing purposes. I tried to cover all bases having the audio, speaker and better visual aid to assist. By the nodding of the heads there were a few funny points during the presentation that I had some difficulty explaining such as temperature control and I explained that it’s also difficult to explain that in the non-Indigenous areas to shop owners and proprietors. But overall the Kriol based food safety session went well and this method of transferring English to local based language has some big benefits breaking down barrier it’s could also be utilized for other programs and other community based environmental health activities in the future.

Thank you.

Q. Brendan you said that you were running that in Beswick. Are you going to look at running it in some of the other Kriol speaking communities in that area?

A. Yes, most definitely. Beswick was the starting point because the contacts were establish in Beswick but yes by all means, we did try at Borroloola even though they don’t speak the same dialect the outcome was similar to Beswick.

Q. What was the cost?

A. Although it was before I started, as far as I know it was a free service.

For more information

Brendan Sherratt
Environmental Health Officer
Northern Territory Department of Health and Families
Katherine Hospital
Ground Floor O’Keefe House, Katherine, NT 0852
Ph: 08 8973 9061 Email: brendon.sherratt@nt.gov.au