Appendix A: Committee visits to remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait
As part of the Committee’s inquiry into remote Indigenous
community stores the Committee visited seventeen communities, all of which had
a distinctive culture, history and identity.
The Committee began its community visits on 30 March 2009
travelling to the Torres Strait and the Cape York Peninsula in Queensland over
four days. In late April the Committee visited communities in Central Australia
over a three day period. Final consultations were held in Broome, Darwin and
various remote regions in the Northern Territory including North West Arnhem
Land. These visits took place in July over a five day period.
At each location the Committee held a public meeting
followed by an open forum. These meetings demonstrated to the Committee the
importance of the store in remote community life. The Committee appreciated the
generous hospitality and evidence provided to the Committee by traditional owners
and elders, clans and families in all the remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait
communities visited during the inquiry.
The Committee would also like to thank everyone who assisted
with the administrative organisation of the Committee’s community visits
including ICC managers, Torres Strait Councils, Government Business Managers and
many others within the communities.
A brief synopsis of each community visit is set out below.
Torres Strait Islands
The Torres Strait Islands (TSI), traditionally called
Zenadth Kes, comprise 274 small islands in an area of 48 000 square kilometres
(kms), from the tip of Cape York north to Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. Only
eighteen of the islands are populated. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Census
data for 2006 indicated 6 958 Torres Strait Islanders live in the region, 15
per cent of the total population.
Torres Strait Islanders have a distinctive cultural identity
as a seafaring people. English is a minority language, the local languages
being: Torres Strait Creole (53.6 per cent), Kalaw Kawaw Ya/Kalaw Lagaw Ya
(12.7 per cent), Meriam Mir (1.6 per cent), Kriol (0.8 per cent), and
Djambarrpuyngu (0.1 per cent).
Serviced by a single freight carrier, deliveries are shipped
from Cairns once a week to Horn Island then ferried to Thursday Island and then
barged out to the other islands.
Waiben (Thursday) Island
The Committee began its community visits on Thursday Island
in the inner island group immediately north of Bamaga at the tip of Cape York
Peninsula. Thursday Island has the highest population of all islands in the
Strait with 2 547 people.
The Committee’s meeting was held in the Torres Strait
Regional Authority building. The Committee met with Mayor Fred Gela, Torres
Strait Island Regional Council, Mayor Pedro Stephens, Torres Shire Council and with
representatives of other key regional organisations and councillors. The Islanders
Board of Industries and Service (IBIS) store and private store owners, along
with local shoppers, spoke about the high freight and fuel costs which boost food
prices in the Torres Straits.
The Committee inspected the IBIS store after hours with the
assistance of the store manager and the former IBIS Chief Executive Officer,
Badu (Mulgrave) Island
Badu Island is in the west-central Torres Strait,
approximately 45 kms north of Thursday Island. The island has a population of
about 1 200 people. Badu is an administrative centre for the central strait
region and has a successful garden enterprise.
The Committee’s meeting was held in the community hall
opposite the council chambers and was well attended by Badu Island residents.
Dr Peter Warria, elder and traditional owner, opened the meeting with a
blessing and closed it with a dedication. The Committee heard from
representatives from the family owned Donga Town General Store and from Badu
Supermarket, managed by the private consultancy Island and Cape. The Committee
inspected the Island and Cape store.
Masig (Yorke) Island
Masig is a tiny coral cay, about 2.7 kms long and 800 metres
at its widest point in west-central Torres Strait. The people have occupied a
central position in the Straits trading networks as skilled navigators. A
successful fishing, prawning and cray-fishing business operates on Masig
The Committee’s meeting was held in a beautifully decorated
covered area outside the IBIS store. The meeting was well attended by Masig
families, and by quarantine, health and education staff. It began with a
welcome by Councillor John Mosby who spoke in a private capacity on behalf of the
Masig people. The meeting concluded with a prayer offered by Father Ned Mosby.
The Committee inspected the Masig Grocery Store and also the
IBIS store with thanks to the store manager Mrs Elizabeth Warria.
Mer (Murray) Island
Mer is a small mountainous island, the most eastern in the
Torres Strait, and home to the Meriam people. Numbering around 450, the Meriam
are well known for Edward Kioki Mabo’s ten year struggle to achieve land title
for his people in the Mabo/Murray Island native title case in 1992.
The Committee’s meeting was held in the community hall on
the island shore, and opened with a welcome by Elder and Torres Island Regional
Councillor for Mer, Ron Day. Thank you to Councillor Day for taking time in a
busy month to support the inquiry, and also to the local people who came and
shared their views about the store on the day.
The Committee inspected the IBIS store and is grateful for
the guidance provided by store assistant Andrew Passi.
Cape York communities
The Cape York Peninsula region is a vast area of cattle
grazing land and natural wilderness covering approximately 137 000 square
kilometres north of the Jardine River in Queensland( 16°south). It is sparsely populated
(estimated 18 000, less than one per cent of Australia’s total) with 60 per
cent being Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
The Peninsula’s largest settlement is the mining town of Weipa
on the Gulf of Carpentaria. There are also small service centres at Lakeland,
Laura and Coen. Bamaga, a Torres Strait Islander settlement, is the main
services centre at the tip of Cape York. Cape Indigenous communities are at
Hopevale, Pormpuraaw, Kowanyama, Aurukun, Lockhart River, Napranum, Mapoon,
Injinoo, New Mapoon, Umagico and Seisia.
Communities in the region can be cut off entirely during the
wet season, from approximately November to April. Stores must stockpile non-perishable
items with long shelf-life in preparation for this time and rely on air and
barge deliveries for fresh food.
Northern Peninsular Area (NPA) communities
Bamaga, New Mapoon, Umagico, Seisia and Injinoo are five settlements
known collectively as the Northern Area Peninsular communities. They are located
along a single sealed road from three to four kilometres apart at the tip of
Cape York in Queensland.
The five communities are separately populated by the
Atambaya, Wuthathi, Yadhaikgana and the Gudang tribes. There are a majority Indigenous
residents (1 791 out of 1 939 people) living in the NPA communities. Languages
spoken include English, Torres Strait Creole, Kriol, Kalaw Kawaw Ya/Kalaw Lagaw
Ya and Mauritian Creole.
Food supply during the dry season is by road train and ferry.
Air access to the NPA is via a sealed and all weather tarmac airstrip, and includes
an established terminal. Many people from Thursday Island go across the Strait
to Bamaga to source cheaper fresher foods from Bamaga and NPA stores.
Bamaga and surrounding area
Bamaga is the most northern township in Queensland located
983 km north of Cairns. Bamaga is the commercial and administrative centre for
government services and the headquarters of the NPA Regional Council.
The Committee’s public meeting held in the Reginald Sebasio
Community Hall was well attended by residents of all ages who contributed to
the inquiry. The Committee was pleased to hear from NPA Mayor Joseph Elu who
played a key role in the establishment of Outback Stores, and oversees the operation
and management of the successful NPA Seisia store.
The Committee wishes to thank
the acting IBIS manager and staff in Bamaga for showing them around the store
Umagico Alau, New Mapoon and Seisia
After the public hearing in Bamaga, the Committee visited
the following nearby stores: Umagico Alau; New Mapoon; and Seisia stores.
The Umagico Alau store is owned by the NPA and is operated
by long term manager Peter Craven.
The New Mapoon Store and Takeaway is a small store which provides
popular takeaways, household goods and other services and is managed by Nathan
In addition to groceries the Seisia Supermarket provides a delicatessen
and freshly made salads. The Seisia store sources its fresh meat from its
community owned abattoir. The store is managed by Tracey Sands.
The Committee wishes to thank all the store managers for
showing the Committee around their respective stores.
The shire of Aurukun covers an area of 7500 square
kilometres about two-thirds of up the western side of Cape York Peninsular, between
the communities of Pormpuraaw and Weipa. Aurukun is approximately 900
kilometres north-west of Cairns via the Peninsula Development road, which is
unsealed for most of the distance travelled.
The majority members of the Aurukun community are the Wik
and Wik Way peoples, traditional owners of the area, comprising 17 tribal
nations and five spiritual clan groups.
Aurukun has had negative press in recent times but the
Committee found it an attractive community in recovery. The Committee held its
meeting in the community hall, formerly the local pub and shared sandwiches with
local inquiry participants. Particular thanks are due to Councillor Neville
Poochemunka, Aurukun Shire Council Mayor, Aurukun Councillors and the Wik and
Way families who went ahead with the public hearing and community forum despite
a recent death in the community. The Committee wishes to thank staff and
shoppers who shared their experiences in the store.
Thanks also to the Aurukun Supermarket Manager, Craig Oxlade,
and John Smith owner of Island and Cape which runs the well stocked store.
Kowanyama, meaning ‘place of many waters’, is a remote
Aboriginal community situated on the Mitchell River in western Cape York
Peninsula, 620km north west of Cairns. Kowanyama can be accessed by road,
however it is cut off during the wet season. The area
is governed by the community-elected Kowanyama Aboriginal Shire Council (KASC).
Kowanyama has an estimated resident population of 1 013
people (at 30 June 2007) varying during the year. Resident
tribes include the Kokoberra, Yir Yorant (or Kokomnjen) and Kunjen clans. The three
main language groups are the Yir Yorant, Yik Thangalkl, Uw Oykangand and Olgol and
The major food supplier in Kowanyama is operated by
Queensland Government. There is also an Anglican Church Coffee Shop, the Guest
House, and the Takeaway shop.
Thank you to KASC Mayor Thomas Hudson who welcomed the Committee
on behalf of the community and to store manager Ian McDowell, Manager, of the Kowanyama
Store for facilitating the inspection of the store. The Committee was also
pleased to hear from local women who perform important roles in their community.
Central Desert communities
The Committee arrived in Alice Springs, the CBD of the
Central Desert Region, on 27 April 2009 and travelled directly to Papunya in
the Central Desert of the Northern Territory.
Papunya is a remote community of 342 people located 245 kms
west-northwest of Alice Springs. Papunya was established as a hub for Anangu desert
communities in 1959 and is populated mainly by the Pintupi but also Luritja,
Warlpiri, Arrente and Anmatyerre tribes.
Papunya is well known for the Papunya Tula Art Movement (dot
art) and its art and music centres. The Committee was honoured to meet with elder
Michael Nelson Jakamarra who designed the Possum and Wallaby Dreaming mosaic
that features in Parliament House’s forecourt in Canberra. The Committee was met
Sammy Butcher, Vice President of the Papunya store committee, member of
Papunya’s Warumpi Band and uncle to the new generation Tjupi Band.
The Committee held a public meeting outside the Council
Office and heard from locals about the pride they have in their community owned
store. The Committee also thanks private store managers Greg and Michelle
Giumelli showing the Committee around the well stocked store.
The Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands cover
more than 103 000 square kms in the far northwest of South Australia,
over 1 200 kms from Adelaide. The Anangu received title for this land under South
Australian government legislation in 1981. The Anangu Pitjantjatjara
Yankunytjatjara is the representative body for the region. All traditional
owners of any part of the APY Lands are members of this body.
The APY Lands have a population of 3 000 people living in 50
municipalities and up to 50 occupied homelands. Anangu culture is strong and Pitjantjatjara/
Yankunytjatjara is the first language.
Stores in APY lands are community owned and run by the
Community Store Committees, often by arrangement with non indigenous store
managers. Seven out of the nine stores in the APY Lands are Mai Wiru stores. Mai
Wiru is a regional food policy developed by the Naganampa Health Council and
the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Women's Council, under
direction of the APY land holding body.
The Committee visited Mai Wiru stores at Amata and Kaltjiti.
Amata community is at the western end of the Musgrave Ranges
in South Australia approximately 500kms south-west of Alice Springs, the
nearest major capital centre. The community was originally established as a
cattle outstation in the 1960s to relieve growth of Ernabella (Pukatja)
Amata has a fluctuating population of 350 with
Pitjantjatjara/Yankunytjatjara the main language spoken. The population
includes Anangu who live in surrounding homelands.
The Committee held its public meeting in the open outside the
new PYKu Centre using the community amplifiers to broadcast to local attendees sitting
in cars, under the trees and on verandas. The Committee would like to thank
Amata Council Members Alan Wilson and Loyld Inkamala for opening the
Committee’s public meeting.
Angelina Dunnett, Acting Municipal Services Officer, also provided
translation in Pitjantjatjara language and was accompanied by her three year
old son Delquad at the public meeting.
The Committee inspected the Amata Mai Wiru store which adheres
to a low sugar drink policy. A visit was made to the Amata Tjala Arts Centre
where large original canvasses were being worked on by local artists, some of
whom are internationally acclaimed.
Kaltjiti is 45km south of the Musgrave Ranges, 350kms east
of Uluru and 500kms south-west of Alice Springs in the remote north-west of
South Australia. It is 137km to Adelaide and 125km by road to Amata and the
western communities and homelands. Kaltjiti, formerly known as Fregon, was
founded in 1934 and the town built in 1961 as a base for cattlemen and their
Kaltjiti is a majority Indigenous town (78 per cent) with 212
Anangu usually resident in the village and surrounding Inintata Homelands.
Languages include Pitjantjatjara, Luritja, Warlpiri and Yankunytjatjara.
The Committee held its meeting in the Kaltjiti Community
Hall with key members of the store committee, Elders Robert Stevens and his
wife Fairy. Nganampa Health Council, school staff, local residents and a camel
hunter from the homelands provided perspectives on health and food supply in
the community. The Committee wishes to thank John Tregenza of Nganampa Health
Council for his assistance with translations during the meeting.
The Committee is grateful to Kaltjiti store managers Eileen
and Peter Johns who provided an inspection of the Kaltjiti Mai Wiru store. The store
managers had recently taken over the store, with immediate improvements to the
quality and range of foods and goods available.
Arnhem Land is a remote area of Australia which covers 96
000 square kilometres on the coastal north and north east of the Northern
Territory. It is bounded by Kakadu National Park, the Arafura Sea and the Gulf
of Carpentaria. Declared an Aboriginal Reserve in 1931, Arnhem Land is largely
in Aboriginal ownership.
The Committee travelled from Katherine to Jilkminggan,
located just south of Central Arnhem Land before travelling to Bulman in the
southern most area of Central Arnhem Land.
Jilkminggan is located 140km south east of Katherine on the
Roper Highway and the nearest regional centre, Mataranka, is 35km away. The traditional
owners of the land are the Mangarayi people. The population of the community is
266 which includes Mole Hill, 40km East of Jilkminggan on the Roper River and
Mulgan Camp at Mataranka.
The Committee thanks community
members and elders for the drive from the airstrip at Mataranka to Jilkminggan,
which can be closed off for months of year when the Roper River floods during
wet season. The Committee’s meeting was opened by Store Committee Chairman
Robert Smiler. The Committee heard from the women of Jilkminggan who told of
their struggles before Outback Stores took on the management of their store. The
Committee also thanks the Sunrise Health Services team who attended from Katherine.
The Committee later inspected the Jilkminggan Store.
Particular thanks to the store managers Jenny and Nabeel Rashid and store assistant Lorraine Doctor who showed members
the changes that have taken place to the store.
Bulman is in forested country 300kms
east of Katherine off the Central Arnhem Highway. The four hour road trip from
Katherine passes through the communities of Barunga and Beswick. The road often
gets cut off during the wet season and is rough and unsealed past Barunga.
The population of Bulman is around
160. The traditional owners of the land are the Rembarrnga and Dalabon people.
The Committee is particularly grateful
to the people of Bulman for proceeding with the meeting given a significant
The Committee held its meeting in a covered open area adjoining
the store. People in the community were very pleased with changes that had been
made by Outback Stores. Unfortunately due to delays in the flight schedule, the
public meeting had to be cut short.
Special thanks are due to Store Committee Vice Chairman
Michael Stevens, to Councillor and community leader Lazarus Murray and to Elder
Mrs Maggie Chikkapa. Also thanks to Store Managers Peter and Gayleen Aitken and
others who assisted with the administration of the visit and showed the
Committee through the store.
The Committee was farewelled by a traditional dance with
North East Arnhem Land
North East Arnhem Land has the highest concentration of
discrete Aboriginal communities in Australia (communities with greater than 50
per cent of Aboriginal residents). Some 11 000 people live in this very remote
area, many in homelands radiating out from larger communities and townships.
The Yolngu people are the traditional owners of North East
Arnhem land. In 1963 the Government’s decision to excise land for a bauxite
mine at Yirrkala on Gove Peninsula prompted Yolngu estate owners to petition
Parliament. The Yirkkala Petition petition, painted on bark, attracted
international attention. Although the court case (Milirrpum and Others v
Nabalaco P/L and the Commonwealth 1971) was lost, the actions of the Yolngu led
to later successful land rights claims.
Food supply to the region is provided by a weekly barge from
Darwin. Larger island communities have airstrips and mainland communities have
road access which is closed during the wet season.
Goulburn Island (Warruwi)
The Warruwi people are the traditional owners of the
Goulburn Islands, two islands located roughly three kilometres off the northern
Arnhem Land coast and 300 kms north-east of Darwin. The Warruwi community is
located on the southern tip of the south island and has an airstrip.
Warruwi has a population of approximately 415 people. It is
a dry community (no alcohol) and fishing is the traditional practice of
local people who hunt turtles and dugong prevalent in the area. There are four
clan and language groups within Warruwi. The main languages spoken are Maung,
Kunwinjku, Walang and Galpu.
The Committee visited that Ajurumu Self-Service Store and
Takeaway which is owned by the Ajurumu Store Aboriginal Corporation and managed
by Arnhem Land Progress Corporation’s (ALPA) consultancy management arm,
Australian Retail Consultants (ARC).
The meeting was held in the sheltered area in front of the
store and was opened by Store Committee Member and Community elder, Jenny
Inmulugulu, with a welcome in Maung language. Thank you to ALPA store directors
who attended the meeting and to the many families who shared their views about pricing
and food supply in the store. Store managers Damien Fitzpatrick and Kirsty
Slattery showed the Committee a range of produce and healthy takeaways that are
available through the store.
The Milingimbi community is the main settlement on
Milingimbi Island (part of the Crocodile Island Group). It is located just off
the north coast of Central Arnhem Land in the Arafura Sea, approximately 440 km
east of Darwin and 206 km west of Nhulunbuy and has an airstrip.
Milingimbi has a total population of approximately 1 500
people. It is located on Yirritja moiety land, belonging to the Batjimurrungu
and Walamangu clans. The northern part of the island is Dhuwa moiety land
belonging to the Gorryindin and Gamalangga clans. The main languages spoken at
Milingimbi are Gupapuyngu, Djambarrpuyngu and Wangguri, however several other
Aboriginal languages are used.
The Milingimbi Community Store is one of Arnhem Land
Progress Corporation’s five member stores and is managed and covered by an ALPA
Corporate Licence. The Store completed a major renovation in August 2008
resulting in a significant increase in floor space and storage capacity.
The Committee’s meeting was held outside under trees with the
sea in view in the Jessie Smith Park. The meeting was well attended by
Milingimbi Elders and community members who positioned themselves in groups
under the trees. Thank you in particular to Store Director Keith Lapulung, Store
Committee members Ross Mandi and Dorothy Buyulminy, store manager Geoff Mclean
and interpreter John Ryan.
The Committee inspected the new well stocked store which also
runs a bakery and take-away offering a range of healthy options.
Maningrida is largest discrete Indigenous centre in North East
Arnhem Land, with 2 700 people usually resident and 92.2 per cent being
Indigenous. The township is approximately 550km east of Darwin and 250km west
of Nhulunbuy and is located at the mouth of the Liverpool River.
The main languages spoken in Maningrida are Burarra,
Djambarrpuyngu, Djinang, Guninggu, Gurrgoni, Kriol, Nakkara, Ndjebbana,
Maningrida can be reached by road from Darwin (500km)
between three and six hours, and one hour by air depending on the type of
aircraft. Maningrida has regular daily flights.
The Committee held its meeting late in the day in Maningrida
Town Hall, which was funded and built by the community itself. The meeting was
attended by Managers and Directors of the town’s two key Aboriginal
corporations the Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation (BAC) and the Maningrida
Progress Association (MPA), both of which run stores and a range of other
businesses in the town.
Particular thanks are due to traditional owner Helen
Williams, Chairperson of the Maningrida Progress Association, who welcomed the
Committee. Thank you also to youth centre staff, health clinic staff, and to
Mark Hutchings, Manager of BAC Barlmarrk Supermarket, and Bill Young, General
Manager of the MPA store for the evening inspections of their large well
stocked and busy stores. The Committee would especially like to thank Lisa Ackerman
from the BAC Good Food Kitchen for opening the takeaway for inspection on the
following public holiday.