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Media Release by The Hon Mal Brough MP

New company to offer better food and business opportunities to Indigenous communities

Joint Media Release with:

  • The Hon Kevin Andrews MP, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations - Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service

Ongoing concerns about the quality and availability of food in remote areas will be addressed through a $48 million initiative launched today by Australian Government Ministers Kevin Andrews and Mal Brough.

The Outback Stores initiative was launched in Parliament House today following the inaugural meeting of the Board of Outback Stores. The model was developed with the support of Woolworths and Coles.

The Australian Government believes concerns over financial mismanagement, poor infrastructure and the limited range of foods and services in some communities, can be overcome with oversight and diligent management. It also believes the voluntary programme will be able to improve the health standards of remote area Indigenous communities by providing quality, lower cost foods sourced from a wide range of suppliers.

"The Outback Stores program is a significant project to roll out healthier food policies and programs in communities where the consistent provision of perishable goods is a challenge due to isolation, climate, freight reliability and produce costs," Minister Andrews said.

"This signals a new approach between Government, the private sector and Indigenous communities and uses private sector know-how to tackle social problems through economic solutions," Mr Brough said.

"To assist local people participate in the real economy, we need the private sector to be a part of that and that is the reason why I met with Woolworths CEO, Roger Corbett, and Coles CEO, John Fletcher to get this project up and running. Woolworths and Coles have no commercial interest in the company but are offering invaluable support and technical assistance. Metcash will be a supplier along with others with those suppliers being determined by the marketplace."

The Outback Stores initiative arose from a need identified by the Council of Remote Area Nurses of Australia who told the Australian Government that if one thing could be done to reduce the life expectancy gap, it would be to improve the quality and supply of food.

The Board will include Mr Alan Williams, former Chief Operating Officer of the Coles Food and Liquor Group, Mr Avner Nahmani, General Manager of Corporate Marketing at Woolworths, Mr Alastair King, CEO of the Arnhemland Progress Association that operates 11 remote areas stores in the Top End, and Mr Ian Myers, Deputy General Manager at IBA.

The Board’s priority will be to consider a commercial management model to improve governance, finance and stock management systems, supply chain inconsistencies and the availability of more healthy foods.