Hope For Health, based on Elcho Island, East Arnhem Land, continues to grow from strength to strength. 

The program started with Dianne’s story of radical health change through nutrition.

Her experience working with Why Warriors to change her diet and exercise habits lead other women in Galiwinku to want to change their health. Thanks to a huge crowdfunding effort, Hope For Health raised over $60,000 in funds for 12 Yolngu women to travel to the Living Valley Springs health retreat near Brisbane.

In April 2015, the 12 Yolngu women completed their two week retreat and in July had their three month follow up health checks. It was so encouraging for the women involved and for Why Warriors to see the impact that lifestyle change was making. Almost all of the 12 women were able to sustain significant food and lifestyle changes, including half of former smokers in the group quitting their long term habit.

Dietary changes in-particular resulted in notable and in some cases amazing improvements in measurable health indicators, so much so that seven participants were taken off one or more medications for diabetes or high blood pressure by their doctor. Those with severe diabetes had particularly good outcomes with two coming off insulin and several with long term blood sugar indicators approaching normal.

These pioneering 12 women now meet as the Hope For Health steering committee and are working towards creating pathways for Yolngu to access health coaching services and local health retreats.

Today the program employs 5 Yolngu women as Trainee Health Coaches. They are now beginning to deliver cooking workshops and exercise classes in the community and working together to plan for regular market stalls so that the community can source products that support healthy eating. An education curriculum is being developed to support the Health Coaches to share nutrition principles aligned with Yolngu traditional knowledge and Western science with people who participate in the cooking and exercise classes and generally in the community.

Thanks to ongoing Safer Communities for Children funding we are now working towards expanding access to the classes and more broadly to the program. This includes planning for a men’s retreat at Living Valley Springs and, later in the year, a Yolngu health retreat on Elcho Island so that people in the community can access a health retreat experience, build their knowledge around health and nutrition and support their ongoing journey to wellness.

Your support can help make a Yolngu Health Retreat on Elcho Island a reality. Help us build on the great successes this program is having already.

You can find more information about Hope For Health and a link to One Health Organisation, our major partner, where you can make a donation, on the Hope For Health website.  

Every bit helps. 


Steph Vajda coordinates the Hope For Health program on Elcho Island and has lived in the community since October 2015.