Community stores licensing strengthened to deliver more benefits
Changes to store licensing in the Northern Territory announced by the Australian Government this week will mean better access to healthy food for more remote communities.
The changes are part of the Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory legislation being introduced to Parliament today.
Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin and Minister for Indigenous Health, Warren Snowdon said community store licensing will be expanded to include all stores outside of major centres that service Aboriginal communities, not just those participating in income management.
“Aboriginal people have told us that stores licensing has improved the quality and availability of fresh, healthy food, and is having a positive impact on their community,” Ms Macklin said.
“In a survey which forms part of the recently released NTER monitoring report, Aboriginal people said that children are now healthier, happier and more active than three years ago.
“Improved access to fresh and healthy food through community stores is credited with having a positive impact on children’s health.
“The survey found that three out of four people felt that their store had improved and that communities now have more access to fresh and healthier food options.
“The Government wants to continue to improve the availability of fresh and healthy food in stores, as well as help stores to be sustainable, by building local capacity and improving governance.
“The changes the Government is making will let more communities share in the benefits that community stores licensing can bring,” Ms Macklin said.
The Government will invest $40.9 million over ten years in the expanded licensing scheme.
Under the changes, areas outside of major centres in the Northern Territory will be defined as a food security area. Stores in these areas will need a license if they are an important source of food, drink or groceries to an Aboriginal community.
This means licensing will apply to some stores for the first time. The Government will consult with the local community about the importance of the store before deciding whether to apply the licensing rules.
Stores will have access to the support they need to help them meet the requirements of stores licensing. For example, community stores can receive financial support to improve storage, to make essential repairs, to install systems to help keep track of stock and sales and are provided with training in business operations.
The new scheme will also provide for a wider range of penalties for licence breaches. Removing a license will no longer be the only option for dealing with persistent non-compliance.
This will discourage rogue traders and will encourage better performance and service from stores.
Stores that are performing well will no longer have to apply for renewed licences every year or more frequently as at present. This will enable the government to focus its resources on the stores with highest need. The government will work intensively with stores that need to improve while high performing stores will be acknowledged with reduced monitoring.
Mr Snowdon said the changes build on the work of the Australian Government in emphasising the importance of food security.
“While we know some communities already have adequate access to fresh and healthier food, we want to ensure every community has fresh fruit and vegetables available as this is vital to improving the overall health and wellbeing of communities,” Mr Snowdon said.
“Healthier food choices are essential to ensuring children get the best nutritional start in life and can also reduce the chances of chronic diseases in later life such as diabetes.
“These changes reflect the hard work and dedication many communities have shown in working with Government to ensure their store is licensed and delivering healthier food and better outcomes for their community.”
Senator Crossin said the Australian Government will continue to work with Aboriginal communities to improve health outcomes through improved access to healthy and fresh food and create more opportunities to develop and grow business skills.