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.

Community led initiatives have the most impact and this is why we are supporting existing Aboriginal owned and directed organisations to boost their ability to have positive results on health.

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 was started to raise the much needed funds to run positive programs and support Indigenous Australians improve their health through improved nutrition.

The Mai Wiru Regional Stores Policy was developed in 2000-2001 and showed the dramatic change over time in where people on the APY Lands were sourcing their foods, as well as 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).

Fast forward to 2014 and Mai Wiru has incorporated into an Anangu owned and directed store management body that is independent of government funding and is managing 5 stores on the APY Lands. Although it is an ongoing task, the Mai Wiru Regional Stores Council has assured food security in the stores it manages.

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


Starting in the western communities the nutrition program will ultimately employ two Nutritionists, one to support Pipalyatjara & Kalka, Kanypi and Amata (West) the other to support Ernabella, Kaltjiti, Mimili and Indulkana (East).

The main objectives of the Nutritionists are to engage with community, and to provide education and support the Nutrition Store Workers to implement the nutrition program objectives.

Nutrition Store Workers

Starting in the west, to compliment the Nutritionist’s scope, a local Nutrition Store Worker will be identified and engaged to work approximately 20 hours per week in each store, implementing the nutrition program objectives. (5 positions in total)

Nutrition Program strategies


  • Assess and measure the amount of sugar being sold through the store.
  • Identifying any trends (seasonal, time of day, time of week, special events) and measure variations around community activities.
  • Since 2005 Mai Wiru has measured the costs of a Nutritionist designed ‘healthy basket of food and essential items’. The basket has constantly been reviewed and revised to suit changes in availability of items and products on the market and to the APY Lands. Measuring the cost of this Market Basket is essential to understand people’s ability to afford a Nutritious diet in remote communities. More recently this has become sporadic as funding and ‘in-kind’ support has fluctuated.
  • Assessing the top 10 sellers. Historically, by assessing the top 10 selling products in each store, Nutritionists have been able to focus their attention on identifying healthy alternatives that can have positive impacts. For example,
    • white bread was found to be the bread of choice on the APY Lands. As a result of this finding, our Nutritionist approached the Stuart Bakery (preferred supplier) and negotiated a new product line of Hi-Fibre white bread that is now available in the stores.
  • Monitor take up rates of healthy and unhealthy food and beverage products – Top 10 Best Seller posters updated and displayed in stores, analyse store sales data and review quantities of identified products sold in relation to strategies implemented

Community Education

  • Source, develop and implement core health promotional material for the benefit of community members and store employees
    • culturally appropriate posters and
    • shelf talkers – to assist shoppers to quickly understand the health benefits of their proposed purchases
    • about store performance indicators – undertake bi-annual market basket surveys and Top 10 Best Seller poster;
  • Learning and understanding labels on processed foods and explaining these to community members to support improved decision-making.
  • Run various activities, store or school based, to increase take up rates of healthy foods and drinks – in store cooking demonstrations, in store raffle competitions that promote the purchase of healthy foods and drinks, teach diet and health lessons to children in community schools.
  • Liaise with the café staff to assist and learn menu planning
  • Engage with school and community members for ideas on ways to encourage better choices e.g. putting up displays of empty bottles with the amount of sugar in each shown through actual sugar, posters.
  • Contribute to recording of results and responses for use in reports, ongoing promotions and social media.
  • Attend regional training sessions with other Nutrition Store Workers to share experiences and have group training on relevant issues and topics.

Coordinated and consistent approach

  • Liaising with Store Managers, NPY Women’s Council and Nganampa Health, and the schools to identify and coordinate activities and programs that may influence measures as well as combining support for more consistent and greater impact. These are aimed at educating people in a realistic way on healthy affordable eating options.
  • Work with Store staff and Mai Wiru buyers to identify, research and source new products emerging on the market and give advice as to their suitability for the store – being mindful to avoid prohibition. Identify healthy alternatives for the stores to retail.
  • Assist with product placement in stores to support the improved purchasing of healthier products.

Supporting other Foundation programs as they are implemented

  • Liaise with the café staff to assist and learn menu planning
  • Support participants attending the Healthy Living Focus Groups to obtain tests for measurements and comparison, assist on their return with Nutrition guidance and interpreting and understanding results and changes.

The Healthy Living Focus Group originated as a concept from the Pipalyatjara community. A local Anangu woman, Inawintji Scales (Ina) attended a retreat on the east coast. During her stay Ina was given intensive education on the benefits of good nutrition and how to put this into practice. Her body’s responses were measured through medical tests at the start and end of the period.

  • Working with the NPY Women’s Council to identify a group of participants to attend a two (2) week retreat, participants will have intensive education on the benefits and health impacts of a range of foods in a culturally and linguistically appropriate way.
  • The first retreat will ideally comprise ten (10) participants from across the APY Lands. The first group will ideally contain senior influencers within community, and people who will share their experiences with subsequent participants and other community members.
  • In an effort to ensure the maximum success, there is allowance for an interpreter to attend and assist with challenges as they arise.
  • Further, a final position has been allowed for to enable a person from the APY Lands, or a partnering organisation, to attend a provide suitable support upon the groups’ return, such as Mai Wiru Regional Stores Council employee may be able to make different buying decisions with regard to stock.
  • Identify opportunities to share the experiences of participants to broaden the learnings e.g. short videos on Facebook pages, short films displayed on in-store TVs (were operational), arranging interviews with PY Media (Radio station operating from Umuwa), request attendance and opportunity to present progress at other organisations’ board meetings.
  • 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 will be required at the time of infrastructure development and the following is simply a guide as to what is present as at 2016. The following table also indicates the proposed order of café roll outs.
  • Initially it is expected that each store will start with a health Take Away and then, dependent on success, the outdoor sheltered eating space will be developed.

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 realistic.
  • 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

While making “That Sugar Film…” (2015), Director, Damon Gameau returned to the APY Lands and learned of the history and struggle for people in remote communities to eat well. Damon learned of the achievements that have been made 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).

In 2010, the Mai Wiru Regional Stores Council was working towards independence from government funding, but had the funds for a Nutritionist to work in the stores cut. The organisation limped on for a while with support from Nganampa Health Council and NPY Women’s Council.

Working together since the start of Mai Wiru, they achieved terrific results, increasing the availability and affordability to healthy food, and supporting a reduction in people’s sugar consumption. Nutritionists worked with suppliers to improve products – for example, white bread is still the most popular bread on the APY Lands, but it was low in fibre. The nutritionist at the time worked with the bakers to develop a high fibre white bread that people in community still enjoyed, and as a result, elected to purchase.

Damon saw a place that he could help and put his money and energy where his mouth is. Damon works with a team to raise the much needed funds to support community driven programs.

It is time to support 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. Donate today!

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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

The mission of the Mai Wiru Sugar Challenge Foundation is to improve the health of Aboriginal people by focusing on the 5 stores of the APY Lands.  We then hope to roll out the program to other Aboriginal communities across Australia.

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.