Traditional Diet and Food Preferences of Australian Aboriginal Hunter-Gatherers [and Discussion] Academic Article uri icon


  • Until European settlement of Australia 200 years ago, Aborigines lived as nomadic hunter-gatherers all over the continent under widely varying geographic and climatic conditions. Successful survival depended on a comprehensive knowledge of the flora and fauna of their territory. Available data suggest that they were physically fit and lean, and consumed a varied diet in which animal foods were a major component. Despite this, the diet was not high in fat, as wild animal carcasses have very low fat contents through most of the year, and the meat is extremely lean. Everything on an animal carcass was eaten, including the small fat depots and organ meats (which were highly prized), bone marrow, some stomach contents, peritoneal fluid and blood. A wide variety of uncultivated plant foods was eaten in the traditional diet: roots, starchy tubers, seeds, fruits and nuts. The plant foods were generally high in fibre and contained carbohydrates, which was slowly digested and absorbed. Traditional methods of food preparation (usually baked whole or eaten raw) ensured maximum retention of nutrients. In general, traditional foods had a low energy density but high density of some nutrients. The low energy density of the diet and the labour intensity of food procurement provided a natural constraint on energy intake.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)


  • O'Dea, K
  • Jewell, PA
  • Whiten, A
  • Altmann, SA
  • Strickland, SS
  • Oftedal, OT

publication date

  • November 29, 1991