Outback Stores began trading in November 2006. It was set up by a group of retailers from large supermarket businesses, such as Coles and Woolworths, with the support of Indigenous Business Australia. The company emerged from a need to improve the health of Indigenous people in remote Australia by addressing nutrition-related health problems, unreliable food supplies, stores closing because of poor management and build-up of debt.
Once the stores are commercially self-sufficient, the store owners work with the store committee to decide how to spend the profits for the benefit of the community, in line with the rules of individual Store Corporations.
The first official Outback Stores’ managed store opened at Canteen Creek in May 2007, although relief managers had begun providing retail services to Imanpa in November 2006 and Ringer Soak (Kundat Djaru) in March 2007.
In June 2007 the Federal Government introduced its Northern Territory Emergency Response Bill to Parliament. As part of the intervention, Outback Stores was funded to support stores that were badly needed in communities but were facing closure due to poor management and build-up of debt.
The funding ensured these remote stores remained open to provide food security, keep local jobs and, if needed, upgrade the store’s infrastructure. In 2009, Outback Stores was funded to support remote stores outside of the Northern Territory. The company now manages stores across the Northern Territory as well as in Western Australia and South Australia.