New look store for remote Aboriginal community

Barunga Community has opened the doors on its new store. 

The new $2 million store was a joint venture of the federal and NT governments, Aboriginal Investment Group and Outback Stores and took more than a year to plan and construct.

An Outback Stores spokesman said the shop is the only NT community store with 100 per cent Indigenous employment.

“The community was led by strong women who wanted to improve the access and quality to good food at affordable prices as well as creating local Indigenous jobs and making a positive influence to the communities economy,” a spokesman from Outback Stores said. 

The store is staffed by eight people and managed by Amelita John.

“Ms John was employed by the Beswick store in early 2015 as a register operator, later becoming a shop assistant and completing her certificate II in retail operations,” the Outback Stores spokesman said. 

“Her outstanding work ethic, attitude and leadership was quickly noticed by store managers Gavin and Tammy Stephens who supported her through completion of certificate III in retail operations and developing her skills as a young retailer and leader.

“In March 2017 Amelita was promoted to the position of store manager of the Bagala (Barunga) Community Store,” he said. 

The spokesman said Ms John was thankful for the support and the belief that the community, the store directors and Outback Stores have shown in her.

“She is passionate about attracting and mentoring young staff into the workplace, demonstrating to youth that it is possible to gain a successful career in their own community and training local Indigenous staff to follow in her footsteps as a store manager.

“The store is vital to the community. The community is very proud that their business is 100 per cent owned and operated by local Indigenous people. 

“The community are self-sufficient in providing good quality for food for their people at a good price. They are it providing not only jobs but careers for local people and keeping people on country and with family,” the spokesman said. 

The Outback Stores spokesman said the the community is not reliant on the closest hub of Katherine some 80km away.

“It certainly not just a place where people shop. It is an integral part of community life. It’s a place where people come to meet, discuss family and community issues, where people work, and feed their families,” he said. 

“The store has a great range and is similar to a mini supermarket and general store, fresh produce, dry goods, freezer items, hardware, mechanical, whitegoods and electrical appliances are all available as well take away facility that is also part of the store.

The store receives a weekly delivery from Darwin, 400km or 4 hour drive from the community.