Byron Bay Lighthouse Run

Thanks so much to all who partook in the Byron Bay Lighthouse Run – Damon and I thoroughly enjoyed chatting to you about the Mai Wiru Foundation on the day, and your support is very much appreciated!


With poor diet being the major cause of illness and early death on the APY lands, we are sending 10 influential senior women on a 2 week health retreat to learn about nutrition and inspire others.

Palyaringkunytjaku – Towards Wellbeing is the brain child of Inawantji (Ina) Scales, a young Pitjantjatjara woman from the APY Lands. Ina has seen too many family and friends, too many Anangu (people from the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands) die from diet related illnesses. Ina wants to give Anangu the same opportunity Hope For Health has given Yolngu in the top end


Eating well can be hard. Put yourself in a remote area of Australia, in some of the most remote communities in the country, and eating well gets a whole lot harder. Imagine English is not for first, possibly not even your second or third language, and it’s harder still!

This is where we come in. The Mai Wiru Sugar Challenge Foundation is working with Anangu (Aboriginal people on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands) in some of Australia’s most isolated communities, to support people to improve their health through eating better.

The Foundation is an indigenous community-led initiative, implementing nutrition programs in central Australia’s remote APY Lands. Based on a two-year period of consultation with Indigenous communities through visits by nutritionists, Damon and his team are working on three key projects: opening healthy living cafes, funding permanent nutritionists on the ground, and intensive nutrition workshops. Indigenous Australians die about 10 years younger than non-Indigenous Australians (1). But it’s not all bad news – we can do something to turn this around! Many of the causes for people’s shorter life expectancy can be related to nutrition (2).

To achieve the goal of better health for Anangu, we need your help.

Click here to become a regular donor today!

What we do

The Mai Wiru Sugar Challenge Foundation recognises that the relationship of nutrition to health is a complex issue, especially in remote Aboriginal communities. By combining modern and local Traditional Knowledge of food preparation, the Foundation aims to reduce sugar intake by encouraging delicious healthy alternatives and supporting an innovative program of health promotion. Addressing behavioural change takes time and sustained support.The Mai Wiru Regional Stores Policy was developed in 2000-2001 and showed the dramatic changes over time in where people on the APY Lands are sourcing their foods, what was available and its cost to community members. As a result, the Mai Wiru project commenced work with the community owned stores and improve food security (the availability and affordability of healthy food and essential items every day in the local store).

Having healthy food available does not mean people choose to eat that food all the time, or even most of the time. This is where the Foundation comes in. Our programs are developed and designed in an inclusive and sharing way – taking the best everyone has to offer to ensure the best outcomes for community members.

Our Programs

Palyaringkunytjaku – Towards Wellbeing is the initiative of Inawantji (Ina) Scales, a Pitjantjatjara woman from the APY Lands.

The project will take 10 senior, influential women to a two week intensive health and nutrition retreat where they will learn and personally experience firsthand, the benefits of healthy eating and living. They will then return to community to share their experiences and become healthy living champions.

By taking people out of their everyday environment, we will relieve them, for a period, of their daily duties at home and in community. This will free participants to focus, distraction free, on learning the extensive information that will be provided.

The presence of our interpreter will ensure a richer sharing and learning experience.

The participants are selected based on their ability to share their experiences and new knowledge on their return and will become the imparters of knowledge themselves, rather than being reliant on staff.

Participants are also being selected based also on their home community, so as to share the results across the region (West to East – 1 from Pipalyatjara; 1 from Kalka; 1 from Kanpi; 1 from Nyapari; 2 from Amata; 2 from Ernabella / Pukatja; 2 from Kaltjiti / Fregon) as well as their positions or roles in community.

The project aligns with our strategy to change the culture of food consumption on the APY Lands and educate the community about nutrition. We are seeking funding towards the costs of placing a nutrition/dietetic expert to support the western population centre from Pipalyatjara through to Amata for an initial period of eleven months. As the project gains traction and we evaluate the results, we plan to expand to two nutritionists and into the communities of Ernabella and Kaltjiti.

The nutritionist will work together with a part-time Anangu Nutrition Workers (ANW) from the community, which will enable culturally appropriate communication and community buy-in. Importantly, the ANW will learn new skills, knowledge and understanding which will remain in the community and build capacity for sustainable change. The ANW will likely be filled by a female worker with a young family, able to work with youth.

  • Each store has a different level of infrastructure ready to support a café. All stores require some level of development to achieve the goal of a Healthy Living Café where people can come together, eat a healthy meal, and not have the challenges, such as dogs stealing food, as is the current situation.
  • A full assessment of each store is required at the time of infrastructure development and the following is simply a guide as to what is present now

We put all proposed programs through a tough scrutiny process and have borrowed some of our validity tests from other organisations:

  • Community directed– for a program to have true success in any location, either remotely or in the heart of Sydney or Melbourne, it needs local support and desire to see it succeed.
  • Clear strategy – to improve nutrition and therefore someone’s health is one thing, working out how to do it is another. By engaging community members, health professionals and service providers together, we can work together to design clear programs that have measurable outcomes.
  • Be realistic – we need to work within the boundaries of what is actually possible and sustainable for people. For example, showing people how to make a smoothie in their homes is pointless as they probably don’t have a blender and many people don’t have a fridge to keep the ingredients. However, supporting the provision of smoothies for sale through the food outlets is
  • Measurability– It’s important to know we are putting your money in the right places to have a positive impact. As a result, our programs must have some sort of measure to indicate a program’s level of success.
  • No survey without service– measuring people’s health is good, but it is not enough. We need to address the issues we identify. It’s no good to say “people on the APY Lands have poor nutrition or diets”. That does not resolve the issue.
  • Consistency – Each project we embark on must be able to be reasonably funded to ensure the best outcome for your dollar spent. As we are supporting people to change their eating habits, this takes time and can’t be resolved in a single visit.

how it all began

When making “That Sugar Film…” (2015), Director, Damon Gameau embarked on a unique experiment documenting the effects of a high sugar diet on a healthy body, consuming only foods that are commonly perceived, or promoted to be, ‘healthy’. Damon’s now acclaimed documentary raises awareness of the hazards of diets high in sugar..

Damon learned of the achievements that have been made through the work of community owned and directed organisations such as the Mai Wiru Regional Stores Council, Nganampa Health Council and Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Women’s Council (NPY Women’s Council).

Determined to give back to the APY communities and support them in their mission to take control of their own nutrition and improve their health status, Damon founded The Mai Wiru (good food) Sugar Challenge Foundation in 2014.It is time to empower people to improve their nutrition and we can do this by raising the much needed money to support community driven programs.

Your tax deductible donation will help support a variety of projects.

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what are the issues?

The health challenges of Aboriginal people are well documented; current research indicates a 10-year gap between the life expectancy of Indigenous and non-indigenous males and females. The report published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare : Indigenous Health (2014) found that ‘The largest gap in death rates between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians was in circulatory disease deaths (22% of the gap) followed by endocrine, metabolic and nutritional disorders (particularly diabetes) (14% of the gap)’.

Nutrition is identified as a key social determinant of Indigenous health. Dr Amanda Lee et al in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, Nutrition in remote Aboriginal communities: Lessons from Mai Wiru and the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands, (2015), state that more than 75% of Indigenous deaths result from potentially avoidable causes. This includes Type 2 diabetes, a preventable, non-communicable chronic disease. About 70% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults, and 38% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were considered overweight or obese in 2015, with an additional 8% of children who are underweight, another major contributor to the avoidable deaths.

The Mai Wiru Sugar Challenge Foundation recognises that the relationship of nutrition to health is a complex issue, especially in remote Aboriginal communities. By combining modern and local Traditional Knowledge of food preparation, the Foundation aims to reduce sugar intake by encouraging delicious healthy alternatives and supporting an innovative program of health promotion.

Addressing behavioural change takes time and sustained support. By focusing on younger people on the APY Lands the aim is to influence positive health outcomes in this and future generations. Shorter term, the aim is to reduce the potential development of diet related diseases, and in some instances, to reverse the need for treatments and prevent t the progression to irreversible renal failure and dialysis.

Our Goal

To reduce sugar consumption on the APY Lands from the current 30% of daily energy intake to 5%

as recommended by the World Health Organisation

Our sole purpose and directive is to deliver a strategy to change the culture of food consumption on the APY Lands and to educate the community. Our mission is to reduce the sugar intake in these communities from 30% to 5%, as recommended by the World Health Organisation, through providing education about healthy eating and drink alternatives.

how we are achieving this goal

  • Training and employing Aboriginal ‘nutrition advisors’ in the stores to educate and assist community members with shopping choices.
  • Encouraging more consumption of non-processed fresh foods and water through education, signage and use of our foundation’s ‘sugar teaspoon labeling system’ on store shelves for greater clarity around added sugar in products.
  • Employing a full time nutritionist who can continue the training with the local people
  • Reducing the sugary drinks that are available in the store by collaborating with store managers and owners on their ordering process by encouraging them to to replace high sugar products with low sugar ones.
  • Building a ‘Good Living Cafe’ in each store that teaches the community how to prepare healthy food while also providing a healthy food menu.
  • Provide cooking lessons that can then be taken back to the kitchens in the homes of the community.
  • Empowering the local people and to teach the next generation.

Progress to date

After 18 months of negotiating with the local elders and health and women’s councils, we began our program in the pilot store of Pipalyatjara.  We have been received with open arms and great support.


Our pilot store has already trained local ‘nutrition advisors’ to work in the store.  This involves helping others with food choices, maintaining signs and labels plus providing morning smoothies and healthy take away choices.


The sugar ‘teaspoon labeling system’ is in place along with posters on healthy choices.


The local school has received a ‘That Sugar Film School Action Kit’ and the children are enthusiastically learning about the importance of eating real foods and less sugar for the benefit of their mind and bodies.

Get Involved

The Mai Wiru Sugar Challenge Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation that relies on your donations to support community programs that help to improve people’s nutrition on the APY Lands.

Donate Now!

All donations of $2 or more are tax deductible.

Become a regular donor and support others to make better choices.

Every dollar counts!

For donations of $500 or more, please contact us directly:

The Foundation is a deductible gift recipient and all donations over $2 are fully tax deductible. If you wish to make a donation then please click on the DONATE button below, or you can make contact with us at

Does the company you work for support philanthropic projects?  We would love it if you could please spread the word of what we are achieving in the APY Lands, in the hope we can get much needed support to build our ‘good living cafes’.

Contact us here to find out more details about all the benefits of becoming a ‘Corporate Cousin’, including:

  • Corporate Pack – That Sugar Film and That Sugar Book
  • Corporate Wellness Program
  • Staff rewards – the opportunity for selected staff to visit one of the communities
  • Save lives and improve health of an outback community
  • Promotion and PR

Would you like to raise awareness and funds to assist us in achieving our goal?  Please contact us here to find out about screenings and other fund raising events.

Volunteer with the Foundation

We are always looking for people with relevant skill sets to volunteer on our programs. If you think you have the skills to contribute, please contact us today

By volunteering you reduce the cost of program delivery meaning the money we raise can go a lot further on the ground.

Meet the Team

The Mai Wiru Sugar Challenge Foundation was formed to support people on the APY Lands to make better nutritional choices and improve their health as a result.

Our team bring various skills and expertise to help raise funds and deliver progressive programs with meaningful results.


Damon Gameau
Director and Founder of the MWSCF


Julie Buxton


Gavyn Tellis


John Tregenza

Kirsten Grace image bw

Kirsten Grace
Chief Executive Officer

Katie Ransom image bw

Katie Ransom
Project Coordinator

Kellie Carruthers bw

Kellie Carruthers

Logo Mai Wiru SG Foundation

Latest news

ABC’s ‘Australian Story’ featured the Mai Wiru Sugar Challenge Foundation on Monday 5th September.  The crew joined us on our last trip to the APY Lands and really captured the spirit of the land and community and the efforts that are going into improving their health.
Click the image below to view the episode.

a huge thanks to our generous sponsors

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Thanks also to the many wonderful members of the public who have already donated.

Contact Us

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Any text and images relating to deceased persons on this website have been reproduced with the permission of the appropriate families and authorities.  However Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers/viewers are warned that the contents of this website may include images and references to deceased persons.

The Mai Wiru Sugar Challenge Foundation would like to acknowledge and pay tribute to the elders and the traditional owners of the APY Lands.