Human Ecology

, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 115–133 | Cite as

Diets in Transition: Hunter-Gatherer to Station Diet and Station Diet to the Self-Select Store Diet

  • Pamela A. Smith
  • Richard M. Smith


The transition of Australian Aborigines from a diet based on hunting and gathering to an essentially Western diet has been proceeding for almost 200 years, but in some regions was greatly delayed. In 1966/1967 G ould (1980) studied operational aspects of hunting-gathering in desert regions of northwestern Australia and recorded sufficient quantitative and species-specific data to allow definition of the diet over 5 months. By 1966, many Aboriginal people in that region had been displaced from their hunting grounds and were living in camps on cattle stations or in missions. Aboriginal diet on cattle stations in the north-westwas studied in 1951 (Commonwealth Departmentof Health) and shown to consist chiefly of fresh meat, wheaten flour, and sugar with small amounts of vegetables and dairy products. With the granting of citizenship in 1967, most Aborigines were dismissed from cattle stations and were moved first to town camps and later formed remote Aboriginal communities. Studies in the 1980s showed that the self-selected diet in such communities reflected the station diet to a greater extent than the traditional diet. Quantitative presentation of the above three diets, in terms both of foods and of major nutrients, show that many of the dietary inadequacies of the station diet identified in 1951 still persisted in self-selected Aboriginal diets in the 1980s. A comparison of the three diets with a modern recommended dietsupports the nutritional adequacy of the hunter-gatherer diet. Traditional cultural values assigned to food preferences continued to influence food choices in all three diets.

Diets in transition Nutrition-Australian aboriginal Station rations Western Australia Hunter-Gatherer diet 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pamela A. Smith
    • 1
  • Richard M. Smith
    • 2
  1. 1.Archaeology DepartmentFlinders University of South AustraliaAdelaideSouth Australia
  2. 2.Miln Walker and AssociatesBelairSouth Australia

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