This section highlights the professional development activities undertaken by staff at WESTIR Limited. It includes summaries of conferences, seminars and workshops attended throughout the year.


WESTIR Limited attended the Public Health Association of Australia’s (PHAA) Food Futures Conference at Hotel Jen Brisbane on 20 and 21 November 2018. The theme of the conference was ‘Food – Shaping our Future’ and brought together around 200 delegates to explore the centrality of food in everybody’s lives and to recognise how the broader food and nutrition agenda will shape our futures.

Below is a summary of the keynote addresses and the various concurrent session presentations attended at the conference. More information about the conference can be found at:






The challenge of “keeping bread on the table” for Australia’s most vulnerable – Dr Cassandra Goldie, ACOSS

Dr Goldie spoke about the recent Global Wealth Report where Australia ranks first in the world by net wealth. This situation, compounded by low tax rates and sustained economic growth, puts Australia in a favourable position to address poverty. She spoke about the recent Poverty in Australia 2018 report, which highlighted that one in eight people live in poverty. Income is a key determinant in accessing food and there is an urgent need to increase minimum incomes and social security to improve the food security of disadvantaged population groups. 


Healthy Soil, Healthy People – Major General The Honourable Michael Jeffery, Soils for Life

Major General Jeffery spoke about soil health as an important aspect of Australia’s food system, with the quality of our soil impacting the health of our communities and environment. There is a need to move towards agriculture practices that promote diversity as this enriches the health of the soil. Major General Jeffery strongly supported the establishment of school gardens as these initiatives will help the next generation in growing their own food.


It’s time to be seen and heard – Dr Rosemary Stanton, University of New South Wales

Dr Stanton spoke about the four ways we need to act to ensure sustainable food for a healthy future. This included:

  • Change the unsustainable (and often unhealthy) nature of current food choices: the modern western diet promotes too many ultra-processed, nutrient poor foods that lead to overweight/obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular problems and various cancers. The current global food system is also extremely unsustainable, producing 24% of total greenhouse gases and losing one third of output from field to fork.
  • Speak out against corporate influence on health policies and guidelines: There should be no corporate influence on dietary guidelines and independent experts must ‘set the menu’.
  • Connect more and move out of ‘silos’: Collaboration is needed with experts from fields such as allied and public health, environmental sciences, medicine, sociology and agriculture.
  • Convince politicians to consider prevention, equity and public health issues: The food and nutrition movement needs to work together, target all levels of government, raise their voices loudly and never give up.

Dr Stanton also spoke about her vision for a more sustainable food system which included a move to sustainable farming, more plant-based diets and promoting food as a common good.


Fads, Feasts, Famines and Fake News – Amy Corderoy, Journalist and Medical Student

Amy outlined how we are living in an era of fake news and spoke about how the health sector had itself been the victim of conflicting research and news stories. She shared her top tips for dealing with the media including:

  • Know your targets
  • Make relationships, not internet noise
  • Think outside the box
  • It’s a 24/7 news cycle now, so use it to your advantage
  • Think like a journalist and be a reflective media consumer


Food sustaining societies and cultures – Professor John Coveney, Flinders University

Professor Coveney spoke about the importance of culture in shaping our food system and eating habits. He explored school food programs and supermarkets in France and Australia, showing that France had a much stronger emphasis on protecting their food culture and traditions when compared to Australia. Professor Coveney also presented some research on levels of public trust during a food scandal, with the results showing that farmers were perceived as more truthful than other stakeholders in a food crisis (such as media, supermarkets and politicians). More information about Professor Coveney’s work can be found at    


Healthy Food Provision – engaging local sectors – Professor Anna Peeters, Deakin University

Professor Peeters spoke about engaging local sectors to identify feasible interventions to improve our food environments. Some of the tips included:

  • Identify joint expectations and goals, with win-wins if possible
  • Develop transparent processes and communication
  • Partner over the long term
  • Ensure your reputation is protected


Power and influence in food and nutrition policy – Dr Katherine Cullerton, University of Queensland

Dr Cullerton spoke about her PhD research around relationships between stakeholders in the food and nutrition sector. The research found that like-minded stakeholders are very good at talking with each other but not others outside their sector. She suggested several ways for public health professionals to exert their influence in the policy space, including:

  • Make friends with people outside your circles
  • Invest in strategic relationships like the food industry does
  • Connect with your local Member of Parliament and other special interest groups
  • Appeal to shared common values
  • Communicate with clarity and avoid jargon if need be
  • Be brave and courageous



A variety of sessions were attended on topics such as farmer’s markets, Aboriginal food and nutrition policy, food systems education and guidelines for engaging with the food industry. The first day of the conference also ended with a panel discussion on what priorities the PHAA should be taking to the Australian Government in the lead up to the federal election.






Challenges and opportunities for healthy food, farms and landscapes – Dr Steve Hatfield-Dodds, Department of Agriculture and Water Resources

Dr Hatfield-Dodds provided a snapshot of Australian agriculture, based on reports such as ‘Food demand in Australia: trends and issues 2018’. Some of the key points from the presentation included that two thirds of Australian agricultural outputs are exported; eating habits are shifting as incomes rise; the Australian agricultural system is geared towards consumer preferences rather than needs; and that farmers are using better more sustainable practices but there are still challenges such as climate change and land clearing.


The Australian Charitable Food System – Donations and Dilemmas – Sue Booth, Flinders University

Dr Booth spoke about the institutionalisation of food charity and its impact on food charity recipients. Food charity is not a solution to food insecurity and poverty as it allows governments to ignore their responsibilities, it encourages food industry to get rid of unwanted food through tax breaks and it undermines the recipient by elevating the food giver. Dr Booth emphasised the need to advocate for income security and for innovation solutions (such as social supermarkets) to address power differentials in the food charity system.


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nutrition: Who sets the table? – Deanne Minniecon, Brisbane South Public Health Network

Deanne spoke about her personal experience of hunting and gathering and the social, spiritual, environmental and medical benefits of Indigenous foodways. She outlined how past policies have been detrimental to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health by disrupting Indigenous food practices and introducing Western diets. Deanne advocated for policy approaches that are strength based and that acknowledge the community’s knowledge of food.


How innovation can solve the problem of commercial food waste – Katy Barfield, Yume

Katy was the former CEO of SecondBite and spoke on how food rescue is a band aid to underlying issues. She is now leading a new venture called Yume, an online wholesale marketplace for suppliers to offload their quality surplus food. Yume has had several successes in diverting food from landfill and is committed to innovative solutions that tackle food waste.    


The Smashed Avo Generation: young people, resilience and the Australian food movement – Thea Soutar, Youth Food Movement Australia

Thea spoke about her work with Youth Food Movement Australia and their drive to provide food education projects to the younger generation. She outlined two major challenges with working in the youth food movement space, including the difficulties that millennials have with working in teams and the need for better financial literacy. She outlined five main tips for running a successful not for profit food organisation including:

  • Build organising into the system
  • Provide opportunities for young people to learn about money
  • Promote philanthropy which supports whole of system food solutions
  • Build coalitions between people working in youth spaces
  • Champion young champions when you meet them


Policy and Action for Healthy and Sustainable Diets – Dr Sarah James, Australian National University

Dr James spoke about her grave concerns about the latest IPCC Climate Change Report and the fact that we don’t have the luxury of allowing ‘business as usual’ to continue. Her recent research with policy actors in the food industry, government and non-government organisations suggests however, that the business as usual mentality is still widespread and there is a reluctance by key actors to implement harder policy options. There is a need for all actors to participate in conversation and for healthy and sustainable food policy to be a core business of all sectors. 


Who Decides our Future? – Joshua Gilbert, PwC Indigenous consulting

Joshua spoke about his family’s experience of farming in the Forster region of NSW and how ancient practices used food as a vehicle for health, nutrition and medicine. He strongly advocated for current and future policy making to incorporate Indigenous led knowledge into decision making.



A variety of sessions were attended on topics focusing on community food initiatives and public policy. The conference also concluded with the launch of the World Public Health Nutrition Congress 2020.



The conference was a good opportunity to hear about the most up to date research and practice occurring in the food and nutrition space. It was also a great way to network with people from a variety of sectors nationally and abroad. A strength of the conference was that it incorporated a variety of professional and lived experiences, with the hope that these perspectives will create a healthy, sustainable and just food system now and in the future.

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