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Monday, 16 November 2009
Page: 11761

Mr LAMING (8:45 PM) —I rise to speak on this report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Everybody’s Business: remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Community Stores. Indigenous community stores are truly everyone’s business. I am glad they have been the business of this parliament for the last year. There has been a fantastic effort by my colleagues working on this committee. I congratulate the chair for his work and I congratulate the entire secretariat, of Anna Dacre, Sharon Bryant, Susan Cardell, Rebecca Gordon, Loes Slattery and Claire Young, for their work. I also want to congratulate members who are here today to listen to us talk about these reports. We have here the member for Kalgoorlie and the member for Leichhardt, both of whom have vested interests in ensuring that community stores deliver the best possible nutrition to communities, and the member for Cunningham—I do not think she has a remote community store in her electorate but I understand that food choices in her electorate are probably about as poor as they were in the 17 Indigenous communities that we visited. It is great to have her in the chamber.

What can I say except that, when it comes to community stores, we need to find ways that private sector provision—something which was done as a community good and a public good just a generation ago—can function effectively. For that to happen we have looked very, very carefully at, firstly, supply chains; secondly, the function of stores, particularly with the overlay of the intervention and remote community stores and the funding that was given to Outback Stores; and, thirdly—setting aside the supply chain—how we can build demand for healthy food. It is a challenge globally, in mainstream Australia and in these communities themselves.

I will just add a little bit of detail to what the chair of the committee has articulately put by referring to some key recommendations. The national remote Indigenous food supply chain coordination office is unctuously named but it actually does something very important. In the division of ordering and supplying of food—something important to so many tiny communities around this country—the role of a very small office in pulling together the capacity to get food delivered quickly, cheaply and reliably is so important. We know that charitable organisations do a great job in WA. That is covered in recommendation 14. We know also that further investment in delivery, refrigeration and storage—recommendation 15—would be beneficial.

I now turn to the promotion of healthy eating. We have the RIST resources, and they should be available in every community—recommendation 10—but we know that the regional cost of living is very poorly understood. Recommendation 21: let us start understanding what these foodstuffs cost in communities, because we do not know, the communities do not know and the stores themselves do not know. The household expenditure survey done by the ABS still does not include Indigenous communities, so let us look at expanding that—recommendation 22. And of course fees, banking choice and financial literacy underpin food-purchasing choices in remote communities. That is still a major challenge for us. Recommendation 24: how can we work with the Australian Banking Association and other stakeholders to improve the understanding of how credit cards work? How can an Indigenous family determine their bank balance? How can they budget? Can they take food home to a household where they can store food, cook nutritiously and understand how to use new ingredients? These are challenges in health promotion. We need a nutritionist, potentially, on the board of Outback Stores.

Finally we looked at the functionality of the stores themselves. As you can imagine, in these tiny communities stores are all run slightly differently. As a committee we were looking for a model in communities that vary in size, in remoteness, in capacity, in commitment, in love of their store, in where the profits are directed. All of these things can change year by year. How can a store model be resilient enough to provide what we believe is an absolute public good? It is as important as a hospital, it is as important as a court and it is as important as a council. You cannot always just leave it to the private sector unfettered. What this committee looked at was a healthy store policy in every community—recommendation 5. Their should be incentives for managers; it may not be their core business but it should be their business—recommendation 2.

ALPA, the Arnhem Land Progress Association, showed us their food card. It is a fantastic innovation but for the fact that the BasicsCard came along straight after it. Recommendation 9: how can we help small cohorts like pregnant mums and those who buy for the young, the frail and the old buy healthy food? There should be training of staff, not only on site but by allowing them to travel away to larger centres to study and learn in supermarkets and larger food providers—recommendation 11. Get local produce freshly and cheaply and allow food harvested and grown to actually be on those shelves—recommendation 19. I will finish with nutritional education. These are the elements that should not gather dust. They are simple, they are affordable and they can make a significant difference to our community, the food choices and the availability across Australia.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms AE Burke)—Does the member for Macquarie wish to move a motion in connection with the report to enable it to be debated on a future occasion?