NAIDOC Week 2022: Get Up, Stand Up, Show Up!

NAIDOC Week 2022: Get Up, Stand Up, Show Up!

This year’s NAIDOC theme is Get Up, Stand Up and Show Up, which is something our training team know all about. Each day Alma Ngalmi and Dotty Repu get up and stand by their commitment to show that others from remote communities can have the same opportunities as they had to further their careers through certified training, and they lead by their own example.

Alma (pictured left) grew up in Numbulwar Community, in South-East Arnhem Land. Her first job was at the Barunga Community Store, and soon worked her way up to the role of store supervisor, and from there moved to the Darwin support office as receptionist. She enrolled in Certificate IV in Retail Management as well as Training and Assessor, while juggling full-time work and raising a young family. She completed both qualifications and achieved her goal of becoming the first Aboriginal Retail Trainer at Outback Stores. “This was one of my proudest moments in life,” she says.

Now Alma is leading the way for others to follow in her footsteps, and is mentoring Dotty Repu (pictured right) from Maningrida Community.

Alma says “It’s really important for local Aboriginal people to have career pathways and opportunities. It is my job to empower and challenge others to get the best out of themselves. My experience working in remote communities helps breaks down cultural communication barriers. When I train and talk in the local language it makes a big difference and changes the whole experience. VET (Vocational Education and Training) helped me grow my skills, develop confidence and opened up career pathways that I thought weren’t possible.”

Dotty is from Maningrida community in West Arnhem Land and she started her career by completing a Certificate III in Business and a traineeship with Westpac. She first joined Outback Stores in 2020 as Operations Administration Assistant, before working her way up to her new position of Training Officer. Last week Dotty was selected as one of three finalists for the 2022 NT Training Awards – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander of the Year.

“I’m really enjoying helping Outback Stores in making a difference with all the communities we work with. I have lived in community and know what it’s like to live out bush. My goal is to move up into a leadership role at Outback Stores, and continue to help support our communities and homelands,” says Dotty.

Well done to our training team for getting up each day, standing up for what they believe in, and showing others that the best form of leadership is through their own example!

To read more about NAIDOC Week click here.

Food security in Urapunga

Food security in Urapunga

Urapunga, also known as Rittarangu, is a remote community situated 600km south-east of Darwin, on the southern edge of Arnhem Land.

Normally, the community is home to around 100 people, but that population had almost halved due to housing issues and a lack of food security. For several months in 2019, the community store was closed due to mismanagement and debt, leaving the residents to travel to the neighbouring community of Ngukurr for essential items. During the wet season, this road can become impassable, which contributed to the urgency to resolve the store’s financial problems.

Outback Stores was first approached by Urapunga Aboriginal Corporation to manage its store after yet another service provider withdrew from the community.

“We needed support because as a small community it was really hard for us to maintain the store,” said James Woods, board member of Urapunga Aboriginal Corporation.

In consultation with the corporation, it was decided that debt management was a priority, along with the installation of a full range of products and a total store refurbishment at a cost of over $174,000.

Today, the store is in a much better financial standing and has been transformed by brand new fixtures and fittings, a fresh coat of paint, a built-in fridge and freezer section, as well as an electrical and IT infrastructure upgrade.

“The shop looks much better. There’s lots more food on the shelves, the products are worth buying and the prices are cheaper too,” said James Woods, director of Urapunga Aboriginal Corporation.

This year, the community is looking forward to replacing the ceiling fans by enclosing the store and installing air conditioners, providing much-needed respite from the tropical Top End weather.


Story first published in the Outback Stores 2021 Annual Report.

Spotlight on Cynthia Smith

Spotlight on Cynthia Smith

Cynthia is the chairperson of the Mirnirri Store board of directors in Ali Curung, and at 27 years of age is also its youngest member. Originally from Balgo in Western Australia, she has worked at the Ali Curung store since arriving in the community in 2013.

At first, she was hesitant about taking on the role of chairperson, but now she enjoys the opportunity to lead the health and nutrition strategies of the store board. Cynthia represented the Mirnirri Store board of directors at the Food Summit held in Alice Springs in June 2021, organised by the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT).

“I enjoyed hearing all the different ideas at the conference on how communities can eat healthier food,” said Cynthia, who was excited to meet Outback Stores director Bess Price at the AMSANT Food Summit.

Cynthia enjoys cooking and showed Mirnirri Store managers, Rob and Helen Delugar, how to prepare a kangaroo tail stew, which proved to be so popular it sold out the moment they were put on sale.

Cynthia hopes to see more young people employed in the communities because it is through working that they find out what talents they possess and grow in self-confidence. She thinks that the community store is an ideal learning environment
for young people, in part thanks to the qualities of the current store managers.

They are good to work with. They help when somebody is struggling. They are very patient and kind to everyone. And always happy,” said Cynthia about Mirnirri Store managers Rob and Helen Delugar.

Cynthia is looking forward to developing her formal training by learning more about governance so that she can bring new skills to her role as chairperson of the Mirnirri Store board.


Story first published in the Outback Stores 2021 Annual Report.

Introducing the Indigenous Advisory Group

Introducing the Indigenous Advisory Group

Last year Outback Stores established a new, independent advisory group to assist the company in achieving its purpose and strategic priorities.

The Indigenous Advisory Group’s members are influential and well-respected Indigenous leaders that provide expertise, cultural knowledge, and lived experience from remote communities.

George Lee Wilson lives in Balgo, Western Australia and is a qualified interpreter, as well as a board member of the Wirramanu Aboriginal Corporation. He has first-hand experience of working alongside Outback Stores in the management of a community store and brings his unique experience of navigating complex community relationships and interests.

“I am happy to be on this committee because I know how important it is to each community that their stores are managed well,” said George.

Prospective members are identified by the Outback Stores Executive Team and appointed by the Board for a term of two years.

The current members represent the wide geographic footprint that is serviced by Outback Stores:
• Mary O’Reeri (West Kimberley)
• Michael Liddle (East MacDonnell Ranges)
• Bobby Nunggumajbarr (Yugul Mangi)
• George Lee Wilson (Tanami)
• Peter Lindsay (Nyirranggulung)
• Rex Tjami (Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands)
• Dalton Macdonald (West MacDonnell Ranges)

“We welcome these first members of the Indigenous Advisory Group to the Outback Stores team and look forward to the valuable contribution of these community leaders”, said Outback Stores Chairperson Dr Susan Gordon.

The Indigenous Advisory Group is classified as a non-statutory, independent, skills-based group that provides advice to the Board through the Outback Stores Chairperson and the Chief Executive Officer.


Story first published in the Outback Stores 2021 Annual Report.

Spotlight on Liam George

Spotlight on Liam George

Congratulations to Liam George who has celebrated his tenth anniversary working at the Gulin Gulin Store, located 300km north-east of Katherine.

Liam was born and raised in Gulin Gulin but spent his high school years at Kormilda College in Darwin. He grew up speaking Kriol and Rembarnga with his family but learned English at school, which was one of his favourite subjects. After graduating high school he returned home and shortly afterwards got a job at the store.

Now, ten years later, Liam is the longest-serving member of the current store staff, and the one to whom new store managers often turn when they come to the community. At 29 years of age, Liam is the youngest member of the Gulin Gulin Store board of directors and is also its chairperson. He was proud to be nominated for the position and is happy to contribute to store decisions that benefit the health of the community.

Liam’s favourite task is working at the cash registers because it is a chance to connect with everyone as they pass through the store. He is a hard-working member of the team, who works five to six days a week.

He values his job at the store because of the independence that saving his money allows. This year he bought a car and is studying for his learner’s driver’s licence. Liam makes the most of the opportunity to get certified training through his job and is currently working on his Certificate III in Retail Services. In 2016 Liam was awarded “Young Citizen of the Year” by Roper Gulf Regional Council.

“Liam has a great work ethic and is proud of the shop. He will be a great leader for the community,” says store manager Mark Crilly.

Liam enjoys the friendly banter in the store and says of the current store managers Sharon and Mark Crilly, “They are fun to work with and respectful of the community members”.

When he is not working, Liam spends time fishing for barramundi, watching the Sydney Swans play footy and going for long walks with his dogs.


Story first published in the Outback Stores 2021 Annual Report.

Employment & Training Updates

Employment & Training Updates

Outback Stores finished the financial year 2021 with 87% of team members employed in community stores identifying as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI). This equates to 283 people in remote communities engaged in real jobs. Identifying and supporting aspiring leaders by building career pathways to management through Vocational Education and Training (VET) is a core objective of the company.

We continue to lead our industry in providing a relevant, interactive and culturally appropriate learning experience for our team. Recently Alma Ngalmi was promoted as the first Indigenous retail trainer at Outback Stores with fantastic results. Alma was  formally recognised as a finalist in the 2021 NT Training Awards – ATSI Student of the Year.

We are working towards more Indigenous people being able to train and mentor others living in remote communities. To that end, Dotty Repu from Maningrida has gained accreditation as a qualified retail trainer and is also now working in this capacity.
We continue to work with partner organisations such as Charles Darwin University by placing graduates into work placements and permanent employment opportunities in our Darwin Support Office.

A trial of school-based retail traineeships will take place in 2022 across Ngukurr, Santa Teresa, and Ali Curung communities. This will see a select number of students complete a Certificate I in Retail as part of their high school education with the goal of transitioning into employment post-graduation.

Recently 24 trainees completed a nationally accredited retail qualification. Nine of these qualifications were Certificate IV in Retail Management, the highest level that Outback Stores offers as a recognised training organisation. All nine trainees had previously completed either a Certificate II, III, or both. This highlights a positive trend of engaged and committed staff in remote communities creating a career pathway through on-the job learning and VET.

To assist with the recovery from the impact of COVID-19, the Australian Government is providing wage subsidies for 12 months to all employers who engage a new Australian apprentice or trainee between 5 October 2020 and 31 March 2022. This initiative has been well received and encouraged strong participation from store and support office staff.


Story first published in the Outback Stores 2021 Annual Report.