Kiwi connections across the outback

Kiwi connections across the outback

​Frank Lomas was running a grocery store in New Zealand in 2012 when he saw a job advertised with Outback Stores in the local newspaper. He thought it might be a great way to explore Australia while utilising his retail skills, without the pressure of running his own business.

Soon he and his partner, Fay, were working in the Top End community of Ngukurr, where they completed their training and were introduced to Aboriginal culture and remote community life.

“It felt like a big adventure”, says Frank. “The life was different yet familiar to us, because I come from a small town in New Zealand and Fay is Māori, which also has a big emphasis on family.”

Eleven years later, Frank has now seen a lot of Australia, working in at least 20 remote community stores, spanning the NT, WA, SA and most recently in Goodooga, New South Wales. No matter the location, his friendly nature and work ethic has always been appreciated by both colleagues and customers.

The length of time spent in each community varied from a few weeks or months, with the longest stretch being four years spent in Yuendumu (NT). He and Fay were there to see the construction of the new store in Yuendumu and enjoyed seeing its growth during that time.

Shkarra and Matt

Top: Frank working at the Yuendumu store (NT), 2016
Bottom: Frank and Fay with Yuendumu store staff and Outback Stores Business Development Manager, Andrew Johanson, 2016

It’s heartening to hear that people spoke well of us in the community. 

– Frank Lomas

“It’s heartening to hear that people spoke well of us in the community. And they would still recognise us, even where we were working in stores thousands of miles away!” said Frank.

Frank takes pride in making sure a store is presented well and is welcoming to customers. He enjoys being busy, which is why working in a remote community store suits him so well as “there’s always something happening” he says.

“I’ve learned more through working with Outback Stores than when I ran my own business”, he says, listing new skills from business administration, to fixing air-conditioners and ATMs, and various training certificates.

Frank says other benefits of the job are “more money, more holidays, and less stress” than when he ran his own business. After working in Australia for over eleven years, he’s now eligible for the Australian pension and has accumulated superannuation too.

Frank enjoys the beautiful outback scenery, as well as the opportunity to take 7 weeks’ annual leave each year, which he often uses either to visit family or follow his beloved All Blacks rugby team around the world. His top city to visit in the world is Florence, Italy, because of the food and drinks, and all the attractions to see.

Ashley and Karen in Car Photo

Top: Frank and Fay working at the Papunya Store (NT), 2019
Bottom: Welcome to Warumpi sign, outside Papunya

I’ve learned more through working with Outback Stores than when I ran my own business.

– Frank Lomas

​He says the secret to being a good remote store manager is “you’ve got to have a sense of humour and you’ve got to be willing to put in the hours. Patience obviously, and a can-do attitude. You can do anything if you set your mind to it.”

At the end of 2021 Frank was called to assist the small regional town of Goodooga in New South Wales, who were experiencing food security issues because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He found the community friendly and welcoming and has enjoyed working in the first NSW location to be managed by Outback Stores.

Although Frank says he’s not ready to retire yet, he is taking long service leave to spend with family and friends back in New Zealand. He’s looking forward to doing a trip of the South Island and supporting his All Blacks rugby team.

“Frank’s work ethic, combined with his genuine friendliness, made him many friends amongst his colleagues and customers. We’d like to thank him for all his hard work and dedication and wish him all the best for the future,” says Nelson Tavares, Operations Manager.





Are you interested in being a remote store manager? Outback Stores is currently hiring! Click here for more info.

Camping in a swag
Ashley and Karen in Car Photo
Ashley and Karen in Car Photo

Top: Supporting the All Blacks in Ireland, 2013
Middle: Frank visiting the Head of the Bight (SA) credit Rhys Glennon
Bottom: Frank’s farewell at Goodooga Store (NSW), July 2023

Spotlight on the Kantilla sisters

Spotlight on the Kantilla sisters

Stella, Katherine, and Julie Kantilla work at the Nguiu Club on Bathurst Island, 80 kilometres north of Darwin, on the Tiwi Islands.

Outback Stores began working alongside the community to manage the club in 2015. Stella joined soon afterwards. Nguiu Club is next to the community football oval, in a community of about 1,500 people who speak both Tiwi and English.

Stella is the eldest sister and her enthusiasm persuaded two of her sisters and two brothers to join her.

“We live together and that’s why I wanted them to work alongside me because we’re very close. We crack jokes and make each other laugh,” says Stella.

Since starting work at the club, the sisters have steadily worked their way through the accredited training certificates offered by Outback Stores.

In July 2023, the Kantilla sisters proudly received their Certificate IV in Retail Management. Friends and family celebrated the occasion with traditional singing and dancing.

Shkarra and Matt

Top: The Kantilla sisters
Bottom: The sisters receiving their Certificate IV with Dotty Repu and Matt Pawelski from Outback Stores

We felt proud to receive our certificates in front of our father and the rest of our family.

– Stella Kantilla

“It was enjoyable for me and my sisters to do the training, because we want to become managers in the future, or join the board of directors,” says Stella.

Stella likes to keep busy. Her favourite tasks at the club are working on the tills, checking identification, and serving at the bar.

The sisters work on the days when the club is open, from 4-8 pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

This is Stella and Julie’s first job but their sister Katherine also works as a school bus driver.

For Stella’s 30th birthday the sisters pooled their savings and bought a four-wheel drive, which they use to take their family fishing and hunting. They especially enjoy looking for mud mussels, periwinkles and crab.

Katherine is the family’s best chef. Her specialty is steak, or cooking the bream and snapper that her family catch in the waters around Bathurst Island.

This story was first published in the Outback Stores Annual Report 2022-23

Ashley and Karen in Car Photo

The sisters receiving their Certificate III in 2021