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STANDING COMMITTEE ON ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER AFFAIRS
Community stores in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
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STANDING COMMITTEE ON ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER AFFAIRS
Community stores in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
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STANDING COMMITTEE ON ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER AFFAIRS
(House of Representatives-Thursday, 2 April 2009)
HUDSON, Mr Thomas
CHAIR (Mr Marles)
PATRICK, Mr Griffith
DICK, Mr James Richard
SANDS, Mr Robbie
PARRY, Mr Walter
YAM, Mr Michael
HUDSON, Mr Thomas
JAPP, Mr John
McDOWELL, Mr Ian
PRITCHARD, Dr Adam
WARBROOK, Mrs Susan
KITCHENER, Mrs Thelma
WHITFIELD, Mr Rodney
BAUMGARTNER, Ms Laure Alice
CAMERON, Ms Elizabeth
CREEK, Ms Josie
WARBROOK, Mr Kevin
- Mr TURNOUR
Content WindowSTANDING COMMITTEE ON ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER AFFAIRS - 02/04/2009 - Community stores in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
CHAIR —We are now at the point of the open forum. As we have a number of people who have indicated that they would like to talk and we do not have a heap of time, I would encourage you to try to be as brief as you can whilst still absolutely getting your point across. I invite Laure to come forward and start the forum.
Ms Baumgartner —As a dietician with the Royal Flying Doctor Service, I have been working in Kowanyama only for a couple of months. You would be aware that three members of the Royal Flying Doctor Service made a submission.
CHAIR —Yes, we heard from them this morning in Aurukun.
Ms Baumgartner —Yes, the details are in that. I am also a member of the Dietitians Association of Australia, which, I noted, has made a submission in conjunction with the Public Health Association of Australia. Having read that, I think some of their points are quite valid. As one who is working in Kowanyama, I think the important thing is that there is only one store here. We know that there are a couple of coffee shops and a guesthouse. In a community where the dependency is on one store, the importance of healthy and nutritious food is higher than where there is greater choice. Therefore the responsibility of that store is much greater. It is the only place that people can get their food supply. So I think it is really important that we investigate the nutritious options available there by having a look around the store. I have met with Ian, who has a lot of goodwill. I am not sure if I can speak on other people’s behalf, but I think he tries really hard and he has some nutritional knowledge so on that aspect he is really trying. But there is a disproportionate amount of sugar and soft drink in the store. There are only four or five aisles and soft drink takes up half and the other half is sugar, so a huge amount is there. Some of it, I have been told, is related to the fact that it is all going through Brisbane, so they may not actually be ordering that much soft drink; it is just that is what gets sent up and sometimes it is not that the store actually requires that much. Soft drink is a huge issue.
You were talking earlier about baby formulas. I do not have any concrete evidence. Anecdotally, the women here do have quite good breastfeeding rates. They do not necessarily breastfeed exclusively because sometimes children are cared for by aunties or grandmothers and therefore formula is used in some cases. The breastfeeding rates are quite high, but that is anecdotally.
CHAIR —Part of the submission that we got from the Royal Flying Doctor Service this morning was about the contribution to health that is made by the takeaway shops. Would you make any comment about that here?
Ms Baumgartner —Some of the takeaway shops are open at different times from the stores. I guess that means there are times that there is one fewer option when you go to shop. I could not comment anymore. As I said, I have been here only a short amount of time.
Mrs VALE —I refer to the transition with a mother stopping breastfeeding and weaning her child and putting the child on an introduction to solids. Do you have any idea what kind of food is used for the child to be introduced to solids? In Western culture we usually start with Farex or something like that.
Ms Baumgartner —I have not been here long enough to be able to make a comment. I think some of the child-health nurses and some of the mothers and grandmothers would be able to answer that question. Sometimes problems do occur in that transition period.
Mrs VALE —We have heard evidence that up to the time they are breastfed they are really healthy but when that period comes the children are not quite so healthy.
Ms Baumgartner —If you look at growth rates generally, you do not find any problems in the first six months, which is generally when they are either exclusively or nearly exclusively breastfeeding. It seems that the problems occur after that time.
Mrs VALE —We need to make sure that they have good nutritional access.
Mr TURNOUR —Laure, I want to ask you a question. Isn’t it right that there are three takeaway outlets—the cafe, the coffee shop at the church and the private store? Would it be a fair assessment to say there are a lot of people in the community who eat takeaway?
Ms Baumgartner —Yes. Again, I have not been here long enough and I am sure the community members can answer that question for themselves. Takeaway is quite frequent in a lot of the diet histories that I have taken. But I would have to say that is a problem all around and in cities as well. The problem is that we actually do not know what Australians are eating because we have not had a national nutrition survey since 1995. It has been 14 years, so we do not actually know what Australians are eating.
CHAIR —I hear you. I know you have only been here two months, but are there nutritional options being provided at the takeaways?
Ms Baumgartner —No.
Mr KATTER —I think it is an appropriate comment to make to say that where the Flying Doctor Service is doing this nutritional education program the results have been extraordinarily successful. It has almost doubled the intake of fruit and vegetables to the other communities. So I think very fine tribute should be paid to the Flying Doctor Service’s initiative.
CHAIR —Yes. It is very good. Mrs Kitchener?
Mrs Kitchener —I work at the Kowanyama State School as the tuckshop convener.
CHAIR —What would you like to say to the committee?
Mrs Kitchener —It would be good to get discounts from the store, actually!
CHAIR —For the tuckshop?
Mrs Kitchener —Yes, because we do go through a lot. Right through the year I do bread. Before, we were doing buns, but I have swapped the littler children over to bread because the kindy and prep kids cannot get their mouths right around a big, full bun. It would be good if the store could give us some discounts when we do go there and shop. We have slowly run out of the stock that we ordered at the start of the year and it does cost us a fair bit of money to fly it in.
CHAIR —Did you order all your stock from the store?
Mrs Kitchener —Not all of my stock. I usually get my stock from Island and Cape down in Cairns. That is where most of our stock comes from. When we are slowly running out of that the stock I am restricted in how much I can order for the tuckshop. Now I have to start buying some things from the store just to tide us over for tomorrow and next week, and then we will be going on school holidays. Other than that, our little tuckshop runs pretty smoothly.
CHAIR —Do you have an emphasis on healthy foods?
Mrs Kitchener —Oh, yes. We have to. Healthy eating has been implemented Australia wide. I do healthy stews for the kids, and dampers, buns, pancakes, pita pizzas and all that. I had to implement healthy eating, and the kids enjoy the meals that I cook. I do put my heart into it. I rock up to work every day. If I am crook and have to go out then the tuckshop gets operated by one young fellow that has only just recently come in.
Mrs VALE —Good on you, Thelma. It is great to hear that you are doing stews and stuff. Do the other women make such meals for their families like stews or vegetable soups?
Mrs Kitchener —Of course. There is a lot of that. I have learned a lot of my cooking skills from coming up this way. A lot of people up this way eat a lot of buns, homemade bread and dampers. There is nothing unhealthy about damper because it is only just baking powder and flour and it rises up in the oven. I serve that. I have a set menu. For example, tomorrow, Friday, is pie day. Monday is going to be stew and rice. Tuesday will be spaghetti and mince. Wednesday will be a chicken burger. I have not decided on Thursday of next week just yet, but it is a set menu.
Mrs VALE —In my part of the world some of our children in our local primary schools have a school garden and they grow carrots, tomatoes, lettuce and stuff like that and they actually do sell it at a discount to their school tuckshop.
Mrs Kitchener —Unfortunately, we have not got that at our school.
Mrs VALE —I was just wondering if you had had any opportunity for doing that. It is a great way to teach kids how to garden too. One of my schools, Loftus Primary, also have a worm farm. The kids do not eat the worms of course but the worm farm is there to provide nutrients for the next crop that comes on. So kids are really learning basic husbandry. I was just wondering: do you think the children at your school might enjoy that sort of activity?
Mrs Kitchener —I would say they would if they introduced it into the school program, but we have not got anything like that.
Mrs VALE —That is all right. Things can change and things can happen, can’t they.
Mrs Kitchener —Things can change.
Mrs VALE —Thanks for what you are doing and thanks for the good meals you are providing for the schoolchildren.
Mrs Kitchener —Thank you.
Mrs VALE —Can I tell you, Thelma: posh restaurants in Sydney, if they are serving damper, charge extra for it.
Mrs Kitchener —I only charge $1.50 a slice here, so it is cheaper. Plus, it is made by an Aboriginal woman, so therefore it would be better!
Mrs VALE —Absolutely.
Mr TURNOUR —What percentage of kids are eating out of the tuckshop? Are there kids who are bringing their own lunches or does everybody go to the tuckshop?
Mrs Kitchener —A lot of the parents send money to school nearly every day for their children. Half the school does eat from the tuckshop. Some mothers do make their children sandwiches from home and the kids take their sandwiches and drinks to school, but the majority of kids do buy from the tuckshop. We only have 250 kids. My takings could be close to $2,000 a week. But I did not do too bad for the first two weeks; we took in $5,000 for the first two weeks of school. That was because the kids do not worry about sandwiches when I have buns and dampers happening. They buy them like mad. I know what to cook for our kids here.
Mr TURNOUR —Keep up the good work.
Mrs VALE —Did you bring any samples?
Mrs Kitchener —No. I am going to be doing dampers next week, so you miss out, sorry.
Mr KATTER —I am very strongly opposed to bans on grog, so a lot of people probably disagree with what I am going to say.
Mrs VALE —Yes, Bob.
Mr KATTER —When they introduced the grog bans, did the take at the tuckshop go up?
Mrs Kitchener —Actually, we had to put some prices up at the tuckshop only because we had incidents last year of people breaking into the tuckshop. Someone switched off one of—
Mr KATTER —Sorry, that was not where I was going. The sale of meat in Mornington Island and Doomadgee doubled after the ban on grog. There was a big downside to this. I am interested as to whether the take at the tuckshop went up or down after the ban on grog came in.
Mrs Kitchener —I see what you mean now. It sort of went up a bit because the parents that were drinkers would have saved that money for the canteen. But now children come nearly every day. So it sort of has gone up. Last year I made more money, being the tuckshop convenor for last year and part of this year, than the tuckshop convenor that they had for the last eight years before I came on.
Mrs VALE —Did you ever think about the contract for Parliament House in Canberra!
CHAIR —We are going to have to keep it moving. Thank you very much, Thelma, for your contribution.
Mr KATTER —It was very uplifting to hear about what you are doing. Very good.
Mrs VALE —Really good.
CHAIR —We will now hear from Kevin and Susan Warbrook.
Mrs Warbrook —I was born into an Indigenous family and grew up in an Aboriginal community called Murray Bridge in central New South Wales. I have lived and worked in Aboriginal communities my entire life. We know a lot about culture and law. We see in this community that there is not provision for diabetes and things. We are working with the church towards that. We have introduced things like grain bread, whereas they only had white bread in the church store before. We have introduced Sugarine, more diet drinks, more fruit juices. We are trying to go that way. We have talked to Laura, the dietitian. We have got some posters, pamphlets and things to put up to try and go that way.
CHAIR —What organisation do you run?
Mrs Warbrook —The Anglican church store, which is called The Coffee Shop. It is a bit confusing!
CHAIR —What products do you sell there?
Mr Warbrook —We sell a fair bit of meat and some tinned foods. Of course, we have only come in during the wet season; we cannot change over to the other stuff because of the cost of freight.
CHAIR —Is it a takeaway store?
Mrs Warbrook —No, it is like a convenience store.
CHAIR —Do you do takeaway food as well?
Mrs Warbrook —We do pies. That is the only takeaway food we have.
CHAIR —Sandwiches and stuff like that?
Mrs Warbrook —No.
CHAIR —Do you have any comment about the quality of the store in Kowanyama?
Mr Warbrook —We have not really been here since when it was dry; we have only just come into the wet, so, being new to it, we do not really have much comment on how it works.
Mrs Warbrook —We also worked through the Territory. We worked in Lajamanu in the Tanami Desert and then out through Western Australia—a lot of stores there over a period of 10 years. We also came in here on the tail of bad management, where there was no wet season stock in our store. That is why we are freighting each week.
CHAIR —Are you freighting by road or by air?
Mrs Warbrook —Air.
Mr Warbrook —We can only do it by air.
CHAIR —What is that doing to your costs?
Mrs Warbrook —We have kept the costs the same, actually, as in the wet season. We have not added it on; we have tried to absorb it and get through it. It is only a few months. If we can absorb it and get through it, and keep our costs the same as they were in the dry—
CHAIR —Are you responsible for your own purchasing?
Mrs Warbrook —To an extent we are. We place orders and we might get the stock. It is a bit of a lucky dip!
CHAIR —But orders are done from here rather than from—
Mrs Warbrook —Rather than from Cairns, yes.
CHAIR —Where are you ordering out of in Cairns? Is there a wholesaler?
Mrs Warbrook —Through wholesalers like Campbells and Bidvest and through other wholesalers. We sell a lot of fishing gear and bait—the sort of thing that people want on weekends.
CHAIR —Is the store profitable?
Mr Warbrook —Last year it was not profitable; it made a loss. Other than that, we cannot really know because we do not get the figures on how it is running.
CHAIR —Would you have a month-by-month reconciliation?
Mr Warbrook —No.
Mrs Warbrook —Not really. We are not privy to the figures.
CHAIR —In that sense you do not do the accounting at the store?
Mrs Warbrook —No.
Mr Warbrook —All we get is what the stuff costs when it comes in. Other than that, with all the other costs—the running costs and everything—we have no idea. We are not privy.
CHAIR —Do you control pricing at a store level?
Mrs Warbrook —No, that is done through our office in Townsville. We put the prices on because it is all manual—we do not have a POS system—but we are told what we have to sell it for by Townsville.
CHAIR —Is the head office in Townsville or Cairns?
Mr Warbrook —Townsville is the head office.
Mrs Warbrook —That is the diocese.
Mr Warbrook —We order through Cairns. The distributing centre is in Cairns and the head office is in Townsville.
CHAIR —The head office is in Townsville but you ordering out of Cairns?
Mr Warbrook —Yes.
Mr TURNOUR —Would you like to add any comments regarding the terms of reference, your previous experience and any recommendations that a committee like this should make around governance, transport and those sorts of issues?
Mrs Warbrook —We worked for a company called Aboriginal Business Development in Western Australia. They also helped with funeral costs—not with money but with goods. We provide a drum flower, flowers, funeral wreaths, blankets and things that are necessary for funerals.
Mr Warbrook —That company has finished, but they have started up a big buying group which different community stores can buy through.
CHAIR —What is the name of that?
Mrs Warbrook —Western Buying. We can give you a contact for them, if you like.
CHAIR —Yes, that would be good.
Mr TURNOUR —Thank you.
CHAIR —We have caught you at the tail end of this hearing and I would be interested to get more information from you. I wonder if you might look at the terms of reference for the inquiry if you have not already done so and, if you have an opportunity, give a couple of pages of your thoughts. You do have some experience across the area that we are looking at and we would love to hear more of that.
Mrs Warbrook —Okay.
CHAIR —Thank you very much for giving us your time. Is there anyone else who would like to make a contribution to the committee?
Dr Pritchard —My name is Adam Pritchard. I am a doctor with the Royal Flying Doctor Service. I have been in Kowanyama for a little more than a year. I would like to thank the committee for coming up and looking at these issues. It is obviously really important and it is part of a much larger issue with respect to Aboriginal communities—welfare and so many other issues.
It is really important for me to be able to give advice to people about their health and for them to action that advice, working in conjunction with Laure and the other people and nurses at the clinic. It is disheartening, in a way, to give someone some advice and then see them not be able to put that into practice—if you say, ‘Eat more fruit and vegetables. Eat healthy options’ and they are not then able to buy those things at the store. It was good to listen to Ian, to hear his thoughts and the ways in which he is trying to do that. I think it is a really important issue.
Danna was mentioning that we run cooking classes through the clinic and through the mothers and babies centre. That is currently happening, and I hear that it is quite well attended. I would like to reiterate what Laure said. Breastfeeding is quite common. They do not use too much formula, in my experience. When babies come off the breast it is important to get a food which is high in iron to allow them to develop properly. That is being missed, to a certain extent, up to the age of three or four years.
Mrs VALE —What kinds of foods—spinach and liver?
Dr Pritchard —Leafy vegetables are good. Obviously something else they can use is iron fortified feeds. We do dish out quite a lot of medical iron to children to try and boost the iron.
Mrs VALE —Like good old-fashioned lamb’s fry and bacon?
Dr Pritchard —Yes, that is right. It is really important to try and encourage those things. Leafy vegetables are good. It is part of a whole process. There are a lot of other things that you need to get from your diet to be able to absorb the iron properly.
CHAIR —Thank you for making your statement.
Ms Cameron —My name is Liz Cameron. I am the recreation services manager for Kowanyama Aboriginal Shire Council and the manager of the new multipurpose centre that we are building. This is my second term with the council. I was the sport and recreation officer for nearly 2½ years and I had 12 months in a different position in Julia Creek last year. First of all, I will give you my opinion of how the store is going: it is getting worse. When I first came here, the variety of foods that we could buy was a lot bigger than it is now. The percentage of the store’s food as opposed to non-food items has reduced. There is a whole row of toys. Toys are good but they are not a necessity. The range has reduced. I am gluten intolerant and when I first got here in January I could buy brown rice. But I basically bought the store out and it is only just now back in stock. That is quite a while. The only other bread and cereal foods that I could buy were vermicelli noodles which were made out of beans, and there were a few of those little rice cracker things. That was about it.
Another point to make is that I was funded by the Queensland government’s department of sport and recreation. Our motto was Eat Well Be Active and that should be reflected in the store, but I do not think it is. If everyone in this community, which is 1,200 people, had their two fruit and five vegies each day then we would quickly run out of the food in our fruit and veg section. We are looking at a kiosk in our new facility and we want to strongly promote healthy eating in that facility: low sugar, or better sugars, such as fruit juices; there are fizzy soft drinks you can buy that do not have any sugar in them at all and they do not have the more damaging preservatives in them. So there are options out there, you just have to search for them. We want to do more foods like Thelma is making at the school, produced by local people: stews and rice and home-made dampers, local barramundi. That is what the council and I are looking at for our store; we do not want to sell just hot chips and Coke.
Mr TURNOUR —During the dry season, when the road is open, do you self order out of Cairns for those gluten free products?
Ms Cameron —During this wet season I have been ordering online from health-food stores, or you buy from health-food stores when you go to Cairns.
Mr TURNOUR —And then they get packaged up and sent out to you by air transport?
Ms Cameron —Yes, and I think the rate is cheaper than the planes. The freight rate that you pay for Australia Post is cheaper than what you would pay for the stuff to come in on the planes.
Mr TURNOUR —So you take up the Australia Post option, the box that is sent out through the postage process.
Ms Cameron —Yes.
Mr TURNOUR —There is a certain size box that you can get, isn’t there? It is the same as what the stations get, I understand. Is that correct?
Ms Cameron —One example from my work: we do movie nights; we bought 15 kilos of popcorn and the freight was about $26. It is half of what you would pay to put it on the plane.
Mr TURNOUR —You said that the range of produce in the store had gone down. How long have you been here?
Ms Cameron —I first came here in 2005.
Mr TURNOUR —So that was four years ago. When did you see the change come about?
Ms Cameron —I have definitely noticed it since I have been back—how much our range has been significantly reduced.
Mr TURNOUR —And from the evidence we heard earlier, I just want to know whether you have thought about this or whether you can confirm this: prior to 2005 there was self ordering from the store and the store manager was ordering, whereas now, since you have come back, there is a central ordering situation. Am I correct in my assumption based on the evidence I have heard? Have you made any inquiries in relation to that?
Ms Cameron —Can you say that again?
Mr TURNOUR —Basically, in 2005, in that period when there was a greater range, my understanding, from the evidence we have heard today is that the store manager was still ordering, whereas today we are seeing more centralised ordering out of Brisbane. Is that the reason for the smaller range?
Ms Cameron —I do not think I can comment on that.
Mr TURNOUR —That is fine.
Ms Cameron —Things have changed, definitely, and there is more shelf space now for things like two-minute noodles and white flour and white rice. Half an aisle is white rice and this much is brown rice, and we could not even get it for about two months. In terms of the locals and giving them choice, why are we promoting so much space to things like two-minute noodles and less space for the more wholesome foods that people should be eating? The Queensland government should be promoting the same message that all of the other departments are promoting.
CHAIR —Thank you for that.
Ms Creek —My name is Josie Creek. My title is women’s and children’s services coordinator. That entails child and maternal health, women’s shelter and children’s playgroup. I want to talk about some of the issues for programs in the zero to five age group. That is generally the area where we look at child and maternal health and recognise the drop in weight and the health of children between two and four that we have identified with the child health worker. We are working towards looking at programs that would cover those areas and getting the parents and the women’s group to come along to various programs that would help them, such as cooking programs. We have identified that there has been a drop in those areas as well. And we are working quite closely with RFDS and the various areas in that—nutrition as well.
Mrs VALE —Thank you very much for that information. What kind of food do babies go on after they have been weaned, when they are about to go onto solid food? What is the normal manner of doing that? What kinds of foods do young mothers normally use?
Ms Creek —You generally feed them what you are eating, stews and so on—that is, mashed potatoes, vegetables and rice.
Mrs VALE —That is mashed up for baby?
Ms Creek —Yes.
Mrs VALE —So there is no—
Ms Creek —There are different strengths, I suppose you could say. You have smooth and they go up as they get older.
Mrs VALE —Do any mothers use, say, Farex as an introductory solid?
Ms Creek —Yes, I did. I now care for a 13-month-old child. He came into my care when he was six months old, so I have had him for about six months. In the beginning there was Farex on the shelf, but when they get to a certain age and need to advance into the next range I did not find that on the shelf. What I have also found with baby foods is that there is no variety on the shelves. It is always the same sorts of tins. If you go to Coles you can get a variety.
Mrs VALE —Is Farex still available on the store’s shelves?
Ms Creek —I have not seen it.
Mrs VALE —It is such an important transition for babies to start with that.
Ms Creek —Yes. Also, this child is on formula. He was on S21, formula 1, and now he has advanced to formula 2, and they have only recently started to bring formula 2 into the store. I was having to purchase that down at the coffee shop, and the price range between the two areas is quite different. Down there it is $35 for a tin and it is $32 something here.
Mrs VALE —You are probably aware that in Western culture some of the mothers use the tinned food but also mash up their own carrots and pumpkin and vegies for baby. Also, one of the benefits of Farex is that you can introduce mashed fruits so that the children get a taste for fruit as they are growing. Is that available here?
Ms Creek —Yes.
CHAIR —Thank you very much for your contribution. Is there anyone else? We will probably need to make this the last one, given our time constraint.
Mr Whitfield —Good afternoon. My name is Rodney Whitfield. I am with the Kowanyama land council. My previous employment up until December last year was at the retail store. I was employed by the retail stores for a number of years.
Mr Whitfield —All over. I was just relieving. I have been through each store in all the communities. Up until, probably, February or March 2008, they had taken on the central purchasing role and used Kowanyama as a model. They were advised that if they wanted it to work it would have to be the core range of ordering and in conjunction with the manager, who happened to be me. Then that just got thrown out the window.
Mr KATTER —When did central ordering start?
Mr Whitfield —Probably March last year. There was a change of management down there. Things just fell in a heap, so to speak.
Mr TURNOUR —Fell in a heap in terms that the central ordering people were not working effectively with you as the manager? Is that what you are saying?
Mr Whitfield —For it to work effectively. On a core range—I am talking of all six stores—as Ian pointed out, things like rice, sugar, flour, damper and all that attract a better price, which is passed on to the community. As the end result, that will be the top 50 or 100 items, and the manager is left to suss out where to buy the rest at the cheapest price he can get.
Mr TURNOUR —In terms of falling in a heap, the core is happening but you are not allowed to do other things? I still am not clear.
Mr Whitfield —It is broken down. ‘Falling in a heap’ is the wrong expression. It just did not work. The communications were between the management in Kowanyama or all the stores and head office in Brisbane. We were always at loggerheads arguing and fighting rather than providing a service to the community.
Mr TURNOUR —So under your views and your experience what would be a better model?
Mr Whitfield —I have always said that the communities are better off with a direct input to the way the store is managed and operated and the way the funds are disbursed. Back in the ACC days I was hoping that the state government would allow retail stores to combine under the direction of the ACC. Then each community had their representative and the body would run the stores in each community. That gave them the direct responsibility.
Mr TURNOUR —That is the Aboriginal Coordinating Council?
Mr Whitfield —Yes, but that closed down, as you know. There has been nothing since. No-one has made any attempt to combine the stores again. The direct result of this is that we are flying in six planes, maybe more, a week. I have been here since 1983, and I have never experienced flying in these groceries.
Mr KATTER —You have been here since what date?
Mr Whitfield —Since 1983. I first met you in 1984, Bob, out at Rutman Plains.
Mr KATTER —I was a different shape then!
Mr Whitfield —I was in different shape, and my hair was a different colour, too! My manager has been here since the early seventies, and he has never, ever seen that store run the way it is now, where they are flying in groceries and stuff that can be stored before the wet comes in. My point there is: where is that cost going to go? That is a cost of $30,000 or $40,000 a week. Who is going to pay for that? The community? That is all through the mismanagement down in head office in Brisbane.
CHAIR —Thank you for that. That is a really important contribution to make.
Resolved (on motion by Mr Katter):
That this committee authorises publication, including publication on the parliamentary database, of the transcript of the evidence given before it at public hearing this day.
CHAIR —I declare the meeting closed, but I would also like to thank the Hansard reporters for their efforts, the secretariat staff for putting today together, the House of Representatives media unit, who have been filming the hearings over the last few days, and of course all of you for coming. I might leave the last word from us to your local member and then ask Councillor Thomas to close the day.
Mr TURNOUR —Mayor and councillors, thank you for having us here today. I thank the traditional owners. It is greatly appreciated. Thank you for the support you have given to the secretariat in organising today, and thank you very much to the community for having us. It is good to be back here. I am sorry it is for such a short period of time, but it is great to have other members of the parliament here. I get to travel around and talk to people firsthand, but having other members come up and hear directly from you about the issues that you face will help me in my advocacy in Canberra in relation to these issues, so I really appreciate that. Again, thanks very much for having us.
Councillor Hudson —Thanks, Chair, and thanks, members of the committee. One thing that I guess you can take home from this afternoon is that the store is one of the things that have been on the agenda for some time. But, as you can see, members of the community are taking it seriously, because especially during the wet it is the only point for us to get our food from, because we become an island and our hunting habits more or less decrease. When it gets dry, we more or less live off the land. We will go out, and the store becomes a second point to visit. But please take it seriously. I would like to see outcomes at the end of the report. Most of all, I would like to thank everyone that had input today. It is really good, because it is not only coming from the council; it is coming from the community members.
As we know, health is one of the biggest deals in our society. Both governments, the federal and the state, want to close the gap, and I believe a lot of the food outlets in our communities are the main focus in closing the gap. People look at alcohol. Alcohol is probably just a minor little thing that sits on the side. It is a problem, but no-one is focused on our shelves. As you know, in Aboriginal communities diabetes is a very big problem, and weight. Of course, you can see me—I am overweight. There are those sorts of things, and that comes from the shelf. It does not only come from the beer. The focus is on that beer and I think the focus should be broader. Thanks very much for your input. I would like to thank the justice group for letting us use this centre. Have a safe flight home.
Committee adjourned at 4.17 pm