Op shop saves remote community

Urapunga Elder Rhonda Duncan. Photo: Tanya Egerton.
Urapunga Elder Rhonda Duncan. Photo: Tanya Egerton.

In a town of just 108 a community op shop has brought success. 

The remote Northern Territory Aboriginal community of Urapunga has had problems in the past.

Dissatisfied with the current welfare system and ‘job-like activities’, residents are initiating small community-owned social enterprises with the help of Remote OpShop. 

In addition to learning basic business skills, the new op shop is providing people with affordable and accessible clothing. 

The initiative also generates independent seed funds to sprout new startup ideas.

Urapunga Aboriginal Corporation Board member Annie Daniels said she foresees the op shop positively impacting the community

“When we heard about the op shop the community was very excited,” she said. 

Urapunga Aboriginal Corporation Board Member Annie Daniels. Photo: Tanya Egerton.

Urapunga Aboriginal Corporation Board Member Annie Daniels. Photo: Tanya Egerton.

“The benefit of the [op shop] will have a very big impact on the community now and will continue into the future as well. 

“The community has had its problems in the past, but we as a community have always had faith and kept fighting for the things we wanted, and as the result to all that, we have our community [op shop].”

Remote OpShop founder Tanya Egerton successfully launched an op shop in the Jilkminggan community two years ago while working for Enterprise Learning Projects, gained national support and exposure.

The huge benefits in such a small town gained national support and exposure.

Wanting to do more she established the Remote OpShop Project, which supports the creation of op shops in remote communities.

“I see it as an opportunity hub, there are lots of fantastic ideas, lots of natural resources and cultural knowledge that can be applied to these businesses to make them truly unique,” she said. 

“But sometimes people need a little bit of help to get kick started, the op shop provides that safe supportive space for people to get the kind of capacity building in entrepreneurship that they need to further develop their own ideas.

“It also provides independent seed funding for new ideas to start and grow.”

The op shop provides a supportive space to learn new skills in business.

The op shop provides a supportive space to learn new skills in business.

Urapunga Elder leading the development of the Remote OpShop, Rhonda Duncan said there are plans to ensure the community continues to flourish.  

“We’ve got a lot of big plans ahead of us, like the op shop, tourism, accommodation and art,” Ms Duncan said.  

“We are currently working on getting more funding and developing business skills within the community.

“We want to make things out of materials that are already here, like tables out of mahogany, weaving baskets out of pandanus, selling clothing and making bags and skirts and quilts out of the op shop clothing and fabric.

“I feel happy and proud of the community for making this happen,” she said. 

The Remote OpShop project is aiming to “transform dreams into reality”. 

“For many people, being able to access affordable clothing for themselves and their family means a three-hour drive to eight-hour drive to the nearest town or city.

“Remote OpShops have proven to be a vehicle for self-sufficiency, self-reliance, and ultimately, social and economic self-determination.”