Ngurratjuta Newsletter

Ngurratjuta Newsletter

Training Officer Tammy Stephens features in the latest newsletter by the Ngurratjuta/Pmara Aboriginal Corporation, alongside trainee Lornie Multa who was the first to complete her Certificate II in Retail as part of the Ngurratjuta Training Project.

Store manager Dee Micallef has observed the benefits of this certified training.

“Because of the knowledge through this program Lornie is more confident and is an asset to the store. She uses her initiative and is a team member I can depend on,” says Dee.

This project is an initiative of the Ngurratjuta/Pmara Aboriginal Corporation who partnered with Outback Stores to improve Indigenous employment and training outcomes in the remote communities of Papunya, Nyirripi, Haasts Bluff and Mount Liebig.

“I look forward to training Lornie in the future and watching her achieve her goals,” says Tammy.

Shkarra and Matt

Article in Ngurratjuta newsletter, March 2024

Lornie has been a pleasure to train. She is dedicated to her job.

– Tammy Stephens

To read the whole newsletter click here.

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

Photos
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

Photos
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

Photos
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

Photos
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

Photos
The sisters receiving their Certificate III in 2021

Fifteen years accounts for a lot

Fifteen years accounts for a lot

​When someone thinks of an Outback Stores employee – they probably think of a store manager, merchandise assistant or training officer. But the unsung heroes of Outback Stores are to be found in our accounts department, providing transparent accounting services for the benefit of locally-owned remote community stores across the country.

Outback Stores recently congratulated two members of our accounts team who have worked with the company for fifteen years.

Louise Edwards and Troy Criddle both started working at Outback Stores in 2008, when the office was located in the Darwin city centre. At that time the company was less than two years old and was servicing eleven communities across the Northern Territory.

Louise says that when she started there were only around five people in the accounting department, and each person looked after 2-3 stores.

“There was more manual work in those days, for example entering the daily sales from dockets, then scanning and saving each receipt,” says Louise.

Shkarra and Matt

Photos
Top: Louise Edwards as Finance Officer, 2008
Bottom: Louise and husband at staff Christmas party, 2023

Seeing the company grow over the past fifteen years has been a highlight.

– Louise Edwards

​Troy says that the remote nature of the business contributed to particular challenges for the accounts team in the early days.

“Depending on the mail plane, sometimes there would be a lag of up to two weeks on the mail bags to be inputted manually, which was a big challenge when it came to reporting deadlines,” says Troy.

Fifteen years later and now the company is providing services to 54 communities across the NT, WA, SA, NSW and QLD.  The accounts departments now consists of 21 people, with each accounting officer managing between 4-5 stores. This difference in workload reflects the move to automated systems, which was spurred on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reflecting on her fifteen years, Louise remembers when the accounts team used to visit communities to help with stocktakes. She enjoyed the opportunity to visit communities during this period such as Groote Eylandt, Bardi, Ngukurr, Beswick, Barunga and Bulman. Another highlight for her has been seeing the growth of the company over the past fifteen years and how it has kickstarted the careers of so many people, such as Troy.

Ashley and Karen in Car Photo

Photos
Top: Troy Criddle as Accounts Payable Officer, 2008
Bottom: Troy Criddle as Chief Financial Officer, 2023

Every week is different, so there is always a new challenge that keeps the role interesting. 

– Troy Criddle

Troy Criddle was just nineteen years old and still in university when he first started working at Outback Stores as an accounts payable officer. This year he became the Chief Financial Officer of Outback Stores, realising a personal goal he’d held since high school.

Looking back over his time at Outback Stores, he recalls the particular highlight of his first promotion to accounts payable team leader, when he began managing a team for the first time. He also recalls the satisfaction of merging all three accounting functions in the one role in 2016. Now accounts payable, accounts receivable and cash management are all done by the one person, allowing for clearer communication between stores and the finance team. Troy enjoys the diversity of the work at Outback Stores, and that each week brings a new challenge.

Congratulations to both Louise and Troy for their invaluable contribution over fifteen in ensuring transparent accounting for store directors!

It is thanks to the commitment of our team that Outback Stores is able to deliver on our purpose of maintaining food security to remote Indigenous communities across Australia.

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

Photos
Top: Louise Edwards with staff Santa, 2012
Middle: Ellen Fisher, Troy Criddle and Nelson Tavares at staff Christmas party, 2022
Bottom: Kristy Clarke, Melissa Gillis, Louise Edwards and Danya Button at staff Christmas Party, 2023

Training Team Growth

Training Team Growth

Outback Stores’ training team in Darwin has recently grown to include two new training officers, Carmel Geia and Josephine Baker.

Carmel went to boarding school in Townsville but has family living in Numbulwar, a remote community in the Gulf of Carpentaria. Josephine is from Milingimbi Island, off the coast of Arnhem Land.

“It’s good to have started here at the same time as Josephine, because we can learn from each other,” says Carmel.

They join training team leader Dotty Repu, to support her in the compliance and data entry needed to satisfy the certified training requirements of the Australian Skills Quality Authority.

“It has been a huge help having them join the team. We’re ticking our compliance boxes much quicker now,” said Dotty.

Carmel and Josephine’s roles are based in the Darwin Support Office, but they also travel to community occasionally to support the in-person training. Since starting in August they have visited Ngukurr community in the Roper River Region, and they hope to visit some communities in Western Australia soon.

This year the training team have helped 25 trainees to successfully complete either a Certificate II, III or IV in retail qualifications. Those students who have completed the highest qualification are now taking more responsibility in store and providing support for new team members.

Shkarra and Matt

Photos
Top: Josephine Baker, Carmel Geia and Dotty Repu
Bottom: The training team at their staff Christmas Party 2023. Carmel Geia, Craig Boxall, Emma Sykba, Tammy Stephens, Josephine Baker, Dotty Repu (from left to right).

Ngurratjuta Training Project

Ngurratjuta Training Project

Lornie Multa from Haasts Bluff (Ikuntji) is the first trainee to complete her Certificate II in Retail as part of the Ngurratjuta Training Project.

Lornie was awarded her certificate this week at Kanparrka Store and says that now she has finished she is keen to start Certificate III in Retail Management.

“I want to learn to be a supervisor then to be a manager. I am ready to start more training,” says Lornie.

Store manager Dee Micallef has observed the benefits of this certified training.

“Because of the knowledge through this program Lornie is more confident and is an asset to the store. She uses her initiative and is a team member I can depend on,” says Dee.

This project is an initiative of the Ngurratjuta/Pmara Aboriginal Corporation who have partnered with Outback Stores to improve Indigenous employment and training outcomes in remote communities.

Shkarra and Matt

Photos
Top: Lornie Multa awarded her certificate by Tammy Stephens
Bottom: Dee Micallef, Lornie Multa and Tammy Stephens (left to right)

The trainees are staying long term at the store, they’re learning and understanding more of the retail environment, and are enjoying coming to work.”

– Craig Shaw

Lornie was awarded her certificate this week by Craig Shaw, CDP Manager of Ngurratjuta/Pmara Ntjarra Aboriginal Corporation, who is pleased with the result of the first year of this project.

“The learning of cultural, shop and computer-based training works hand in hand with jobseekers. The trainees are staying long term at the store, they’re learning and understanding more of the retail environment, and are enjoying coming to work,” says Craig.

The project is based between four nearby communities (Papunya, Nyirripi, Haasts Bluff and Mount Liebig), allowing for continuous training despite the often-transient populations. There are currently nine trainees studying across the four locations.

Training Officer Tammy Stephens is based in Papunya but divides her time between the four communities.

“Lornie has been a pleasure to train. She is dedicated to her job and improving her role at the store. I look forward to training Lornie in the future and watching her achieve her goals,” says Tammy.

Ashley and Karen in Car Photo

Photos
Top: Lornie completing training modules online, assisted by Tammy
Bottom: Celebratory sausage sizzle after award ceremony on Wednesday 13th Dec 2023