Speech by The Hon Larry Anthony MP

Launch of the Pilot and accompanying booklet: Rainbow Food – Eating by Colour

Location: Community Centre, Byron Bay


Jan Mangleson, Councillor Byron Bay Shire Council
Distinguished guests
Ladies and gentlemen

Thank you Jan (Dawkins, President of Byron Bay Community Centre) for your introduction.

It is great to be here at the Bryon Bay Community Centre for the official launch of the Pilot Program of the Rainbow Foods – eating by colour and the accompanying booklet of the same name produced by Denise Greenaway.

I believe the Pilot will be trialled at a number of childcare centres including Sandhills Child Care Centre, here in Byron Bay.

As mentioned Rainbow Food is the brainchild of Dr Denise Greenway, who is with us here today.

Denise came to see me late last year.

She told me about her Rainbow Food concept and how it could improve children’s eating habits and help reduce obesity.

As the father of three young children, I absolutely agreed with the things Denise said about the importance of good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle.

And as the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs in the Coalition Government, directly responsible for children’s issues, childhood obesity is of significant concern to me.

There are some frightening statistics about obesity and about children’s fitness, as well:

  • Australia has one of the highest rates of obesity amongst developed nations about 20 per cent of our children are overweight or obese.
  • Some kids spend a full working week – 35 hours – in front of a TV or video.
  • Over the past 15 years, the number of overweight or obese children has doubled.
  • More than 40 per cent of children play no sport or participate in any physical activity.

If these trends continue, we will have a big problem on our hands.

Not only will there be increased pressure on our health system, there will be millions of Australians physically unable to live a life as fulfilling as it should be.

Australians today live in a wealthy society. However, we are time poor.

We often turn to foods of convenience, which are frequently high in fat and sugar.

We have grown dependent on television for entertainment and information.

We work and play with computers and there is a world available at our fingertips.

Exercise is not an automatic part of everyday living.

Our cars take us everywhere and we have labour saving devices to do what was once physically taxing.

Fewer parents are sharing the fun of play and exercise with their children.

I’ve said it many times before – we need to get our kids off the Playstation and into the playground.

The bottom line is we must become healthier, fitter adults and we need to raise healthier, fitter children.

I believe tackling obesity has to be a joint responsibility – for governments, the media, businesses, health professionals, child care providers, teachers, and parents alike.

For the Government’s part, we are doing some ground-breaking work in developing Australia’s first-ever National Agenda for Children.

This has the strong support of the Prime Minister John Howard and the bipartisan support of the Parliament.

In putting the agenda together, we are consulting with experts and with the community on three priority areas:

  • Early child and maternal health
  • Early learning and care, and
  • Supporting child friendly communities.

The issue of childhood obesity relates to all three areas, either directly or in some other way.

I’ve also been working with other Ministers on a number of fronts to try and get a ‘cross-government’ approach to meeting some of the challenges head on. For example,

  • With Senator Kay Patterson, on many aspects of children’s health,
  • With Tony Abbott on balancing work and family, and
  • With Rod Kemp on promoting the benefits of sport and keeping children physically active.

On a smaller scale, too, my own department is funding some one-off children’s health initiatives.

For example, the Healthy Kids Australia Newsletter is published by my department with help from other departments and nutrition experts.

Distributed through pre-schools, child care centres and schools across Australia to promote healthy lifestyles.
It offers practical advice to get people off the couch and onto their bikes; and offers suggestions for things like healthy lunches and snacks.

We are also seeing some exciting projects involving the business sector. For instance:

  • The advertising industry, together with the Australian Food and Grocery Council is running a national campaign, to help prevent childhood obesity.
  • Dairy Farmers has introduced a Smart Card in several school canteens. The card offers points and prizes for children who eat healthy food.

Rainbow Food is designed to reach children in child care and in other places where they spend their days.

Rainbow Food is about colour and taste and brings fun back into sensible eating.

With an eating-by-colour guide, diaries, fridge charts, games and recipes, Rainbow Foods has already shown some initial success with small trials at Brunswick Heads Primary School and in the Mutitjulu Community in the Northern Territory.

Today’s event marks the beginning of a more comprehensive pilot project at the Sandhills Child Care Centre here in Byron Bay.

I am very pleased that my department is making a $75,000 contribution towards this.

Including a Rainbow Foods train-the-trainer component, a training video, and DVD, CD-Rom and online information, I’m sure we’ll see some positive changes in the eating habits of the children in a number of child care centres.

It gives me great pleasure, therefore, to officially launch the Pilot and booklet of ‘Rainbow Food – Eating By Colour’.

(Minister to introduce Dr Denise Greenaway)
Thank you. ENDS