One of Far North Queensland’s foremost promoters of indigenous health and behavioral issues is calling on Torres Strait Islanders to put their hands up to help stem the rising tide of diet and health problems amongst communities.
Speaking at a recent Cooktown forum of health professionals, Mr Geoff Guest OAM, said much more needed to be done to prevent diabetes and curb anti-social behavior by indigenous youth.
Attacking the problem after it occurs, is not the answer and according to Mr Guest most government-run programs do not cater for prevention because inadequate diets are not identified as the cause.
Mr Guest said his 40 years of research clearly showed soft drinks, sports drinks, fast food, substance abuse and cane sugar were some of the main culprits in causing bad behavior.
He has operated the renowned Petford Farm, west of Mareeba as a rehabilitation centre, for more than 30 years applying his program to troubled indigenous and white youth, explaining that age limits do not restrict the spectrum of three decades of positive results.
“My program is open to anyone and as soon as we remove cane sugar from their diets their behavioral and overall health problems begin to become manageable, and after some time usually disappear altogether,” said Mr Guest.
The Petford program has been hailed by health services, correctional authorities, police and courts in the Far North as the best available, especially when courts refer troubled youth to Petford for their ‘last chance.’
The hallmark attraction of Petford Farm is Geoff Guest’s nationally acclaimed horsemanship course, which in 30 years has seen 4000 participants pass through the gates, with an acknowledged success rate of 80 per cent. .
In recent years a lack of funding has been a major hurdle for Mr Guest, who runs Petford Farm with little outside assistance, financing daily running expenses from his and wife Norma’s age pension.
“Unfortunately I am restricted now by a lack of money so I can’t take on more than one entrant at a time,” he said.
A training course applying his methods has been developed for health professionals and it is expected nominated training institutions will come on board to take the program to all indigenous communities north of Cairns.
“I ask the health managers of Torres Strait and the mainland to do something beneficial for their own community members by learning this program then applying it across the board.
“You will be amazed at the results,” said the spritely 85 year old.
In 1995 Mr Guest was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for services to the community, but as word of his successful programs became more widespread, he was awarded the Federation Medal in 2000 then the Paul Harris Rotary International award for services to youth.
The Petford Farm, now undergoing a change of status to the Petford Foundation, is actively seeking funding and new members.
Secretary Warren Mc Laren also urged Torres Strait people to become involved in the indigenous health revolution.
“Warren is a registered veterinarian with 40 years experience and he has a Diploma of Education so he has a good grasp of health issues and how to teach them for the benefit of indigenous people,” Mr Guest said.
“I am getting on now and still very healthy, but I ask for people to come forward to spread the word then we will train younger people how to do it.
“I have been approached by several former pupils to teach them the program so they in turn can teach their people, but until there is funding it is a very difficult thing to do.”
Above all the Petford Foundation urgently needs financial support from either the government or private sector, or both, to keep alive Geoff Guest’s long held dream of an independent, self-reliant and healthy Original Australian community.
Many former Petford pupils, some from Torres Strait and the mainland regularly contact Geoff Guest, in the least to give moral support and thank him for steering them on a course of maintaining a family and a successful career.
Mr Guest can be contacted at Petford Farm on 40935365 or search
Geoff Guest and wife Norma at their renowned Petford Farm, a training centre for troubled youth.
Horses and horsemanship training are the hallmark of the Petford Farm where 85 year old Geoff Guest catches an unbroken horse he will soon break in .