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

From Sri Lanka to Maningrida

From Sri Lanka to Maningrida

Originally from Sri Lanka, Hemantha and Manjula have now seen more of Australia than most Australians, thanks to the work they’ve done with Outback Stores since 2016.

With Hemantha’s tertiary education in hospitality management and Manjula’s retail experience, they found they had a perfect combination of skills to work as remote store managers.

They first started as casual employees at Timber Creek (NT) and Warmun Roadhouse (WA) before being offered permanent positions as Takeaway Managers at the new store at Balgo, a community of around 300 people belonging to the Kukatja tribe, on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert in Western Australia.

“We got to know most of the families, experienced lots of cultural events and the elders taught us a lot,” says Hemantha.

As occasional relief managers during their time at Balgo they had the chance to also visit Beagle Bay, One Arm Point and Ringer Soak. On their weekends and holidays they enjoyed camping in their roof tent and visited many beautiful areas throughout remote Western Australia, like Mitchell Falls, Shark Bay and the Gibb River Road.

“We made a lot of friends in Balgo and cried saying goodbye to them after three years” explains Manjula, who was touched to learn that a baby girl in the community had been named after her.

Shkarra and Matt

Top: Manjula with baby Manjula in Balgo (NT)
Bottom: Hemantha travelling the west coast of Australia

We got to know most of the families, experienced lots of cultural events and the elders taught us a lot. 

– Hemantha

Next they went to the Top End to work in Ngukurr, a community in southern Arnhem Land on the banks of the Roper River where the main language spoken is Kriol. Once the community learned that Hemantha and Manjula intended to stay for a while, they were warmly welcomed and shown the surrounding country and fishing spots. They developed good connections with the community and its leaders. And when the time came to leave were farewelled with a traditional ceremonial dance.

The couple believe that the key to developing good relationships in remote communities is in trying not to make comparisons with city stores, while also trying their best to understand the lifestyle and culture of the community. “I have learned a lot about patience, and about asking how and why before making any judgements,” says Hemantha.

Manjula agrees that to succeed in this job it is important to be patient and accept that any change to how the store is run will be a gradual process taking around 3-4 months at least. She enjoys the slower pace of a small community, and that everyone greets her by name. The couple don’t think they’ll ever be able to return to the traffic jams and crowds of a big city.

They are now working in Maningrida, located 500km east of Darwin where the Liverpool River meets the Arafura Sea. Last year they upgraded their roof tent for a camper-trailer and are looking forward to exploring Kakadu National Park on their next holidays.

“I grew up in a city, so I didn’t know anything about camping or fishing before we came to Australia” Manjula laughs. Whereas Hemantha grew up visiting his family’s rice farm, and so had always enjoyed an outdoor lifestyle.

Ashley and Karen in Car Photo

Top: Manjula fishing at Dundee, Darwin (NT)
Bottom: Manjula and Hemantha with Patrick in Balgo (WA)

When you go to the store each day, it’s always an adventure. 

– Manjula

​The couple make the most of their seven weeks’ annual leave, dividing the time between visiting family in Sri Lanka each year and travelling around Australia. Next year will be a little different, as Hemantha is planning to realise a long-held dream of his to visit Antarctica. The couple are determined to travel as much as they can while they are still young and fit.

“Why waste our entire lives working, only to travel when we’re retired?” says Hemantha. He believes the best part about being a remote store manager at Outback Stores is the chance to see so much of the country, as well as the opportunity to save money, with no rent or utility bills to pay.

The couple bought their first investment property in 2020 and are saving up for their second. Their plan is eventually to build a house in Queensland, where the climate and tropical landscape reminds them of Sri Lanka. Hemantha is looking forward to being semi-retired by the age of 45-years-old, but Manjula confesses that she loves working as a store manager too much to retire.

“My whole childhood was spent in my father’s grocery store, and so I’m living in my childhood. I really enjoy it. It’s something in my blood! I want to be working in a store my whole life,” she says.

The couple say they really appreciate the opportunities that come with being a remote store manager and enjoy the fact that no two days are ever the same.

“When you go to the store each day it’s always an adventure,” says Manjula.


Outback Stores is currently hiring remote store managers. Click here for more info.

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

Top: 4×4 adventuring in Turkey Creek (WA)
Middle: Hemantha barramundi fishing where at Roper Bar, Ngukurr (NT)
Bottom: Manjula with colleagues in Ngukurr (NT)

Not your average 20-year-olds

Not your average 20-year-olds

It’s hard for millennials to buy their own home these days, let alone two homes before the age of thirty. But that is exactly what Danya and Tyler have done, thanks to the opportunities to save their earnings when they became remote store managers. Not only that, but they have seen corners of the country that most will never know, made life-long friends and learnt about different cultures, customs and languages.

Danya and Tyler met in 2014 while working at a grocery store in Normanville, South Australia. Danya had worked there since she was fifteen years old, and Tyler was working while at the same time studying a degree. They were both around 23 years old and looking for new horizons when Tyler’s father returned from working as a store manager with Outback Stores.

“My dad said we should have a go. Get out and see the country! And we thought, why not?” recounts Tyler.

One week after their job interview they were packing up their Toyota Troop Carrier with their swag and camping equipment, and driving from South Australia all the way up to Darwin. After their induction they were sent to live and work in the community of Beswick, a community of 500 people near Katherine, the traditional lands of the Bagala people in Central Arnhem Land. They enjoyed meeting the community and hearing the different languages of Rembarranga and Kriol spoken around them. On weekends their new friends would take them swimming at Beswick Falls or to explore different fishing spots nearby.

Shkarra and Matt

Top: Their Toyota Troop Carrier, nicknamed ‘Titanic’
Bottom: Danya overlooking a lookout at Beswick (with Tyrell the dog)

There’s no way we could have bought a house so quickly if we’d stayed in our previous jobs.

– Danya

​After twelve months in Beswick they set off for the smaller community of Tjuntjuntjara in Western Australia, population 120. Located twelve hours from the closest town, Ceduna, it is one of the most remote locations serviced by Outback Stores. Tyler had done lots of camping before and so they really appreciated the opportunity to live surrounded by nature and would go camping most weekends. It was while living here that they bought their first property, a house on two hectares on the Fleurieu Peninsula, where they intend to retire one day.

“There’s no way we could have bought a house so quickly if we’d stayed in our previous jobs,” explains Danya.

Not only are the couple earning more now, but they found it easy to save their earnings because there is no rent to pay when working as a store manager with Outback Stores. Another perk of the job is the seven weeks’ annual leave, which they have used to visit Fiji, Thailand, Singapore and Bali.

After spending two years in Tjuntjuntjara they left with many unforgettable memories, as well as gifts of traditional spears, woomeras and paintings, which they treasure.

Next they spent a year in the community of Papunya, home of the Luritja people, where they enjoyed exploring the MacDonnell Ranges on weekends. But it was the community of Nyirripi in Warlpiri country that they think has the best camping spots of all.

Ashley and Karen in Car Photo

Top: Camping at Tjuntjuntjara
Bottom: Danya and Tyler with Selwyn from Papunya Store

We’re so lucky to get to experience these remote, beautiful places.

– Tyler

“We’re so lucky to get to experience these remote, beautiful places” says Tyler.

“And don’t forget the dogs!” reminds Danya, who particularly loved the camp dogs.

The couple agree that it was helpful having a partner to share the experience of working in a remote community. It would also be helpful to have an open mind and be adventurous, Danya suggests.

“You need to be fairly resourceful and willing to have a go at fixing things, as well as go with the flow when things don’t work out as planned,” adds Tyler.

After four years of working as a remote store manager, Danya last year took a job in the Darwin Support Office as Operations Support Coordinator, while Tyler worked as a relief manager based in Darwin. During that time Tyler visited many different communities, such as Ti Tree, Jigalong, Bardi, Maningrida, Nitjipurru, Yungngora, Gulin Gulin & Dungalan.

It takes an adventurous spirit to spend your twenties far from the familiar path of mates and nights at the pub, but they think it has been a pretty good trade off.

“We’ve seen the country and had so much life experience. We’ve seen so many beautiful places and we still have friends that we keep in touch with from every community,” says Tyler.

After all the travelling of last year, they are appreciating the chance to be settled in one place now that Tyler is working in the Darwin office as Merchandise Support Officer.

Danya and Tyler have just bought a home in Darwin and are looking forward to finally hanging up the paintings they’ve collected in different communities.


Outback Stores is currently hiring remote community store managers. Click here to learn more.

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

Top: Camping in a swag
Middle: Tyler with staff at Bardi Ardyaloon Store (One Arm Point)
Bottom: Sunset in Tjuntjuntjara

Revving up life with Outback Stores

Revving up life with Outback Stores

Shkarra was working as a duty manager at IGA in her hometown of Ballina, when a colleague told her about the roles that were available in remote Indigenous community stores. That night she came home and mentioned it to her partner, Matthew, who had worked as a store manager at Kmart but was currently working in car sales. He applied to Outback Stores the very next day, and less than two weeks later they both had job offers.

Although not usually ones to make big spontaneous decisions, they both decided to seize the day. They had been feeling that their lives were in a rut, and they wanted something different.

Shkarra and Matt

Top: Matt fishing at Roper Bar.
Bottom: Shkarra with community members at Ngukurr.

We had a lot of fun with the locals, made good friends and did a lot of fishing.

– Matt

One month later they had packed up the house, sold their car and boat, and were flying to Darwin to begin their induction.

Their first experience of community life was in Beswick, where they spent two weeks in training and were warmly welcomed by the community.

“Once we arrived in Beswick we had people not wanting us to leave. We were invited to footy games. It was an easy transition,” said Shkarra.

Then they spent eight months as co-managers of the store in Ngukurr, a larger but more remote community, located on the banks of the Roper River in southern Arnhem Land.

“We had a lot of fun with the locals, made good friends and did a lot of fishing,” said Matt.

They both agree that remote community work has taught them a lot about adaptability, and that the role would suit those willing to try new things, who are up for some fun, and don’t take themselves too seriously.

“You can’t bring your management style from the east coast. You need to learn how to let go, and not sweat the small stuff,” says Shkarra.

Ashley and Karen in Car Photo

Top: Weekend camping trips in Central Australia.
Bottom: Holidaying on the ski fields of Japan.

You need to learn how to let go, and not sweat the small stuff.

– Shkarra

The couple are now enjoying the desert landscapes of Central Australia, where they have been working over a year in Santa Teresa, 85km south-east of Alice Springs.

On the weekends Matt and Shkarra often explore the desert on their motorbikes or sleep under the stars in their camper trailer, which they’ve also taken to Uluru and the Finke Desert Race.

“The luxury of living remote is that you can drive ten minutes anywhere and have a cup of tea under the stars. It’s pretty picturesque everywhere you go around here,” says Matt.

Shkarra and Matt make the most of their spare time in community, easily keeping themselves entertained and challenged. During the last few months, they have been learning about and investing in the stock market, and are also planning on buying a house.

With no rent to pay, they easily saved up money to spend on overseas holidays to Japan and Bali. “When we’re on holiday we go big. We don’t hold back”, says Matt, who is planning a golfing trip to South Australia with his mates in November.

The couple are looking forward to being able to travel internationally again, once travel restrictions eventually ease. They’re hoping to visit Ireland to celebrate Shkarra’s 30th birthday at the end of next year. But for the moment, they are enjoying the advantages of a COVID-free life, living under the wide desert sky of Central Australia.

“We absolutely love it here in Santa Teresa,” says Shkarra.


Outback Stores is currently hiring remote community store managers. Click here to learn more.

Ashley and Karen in Car Photo
Ashley and Karen in Car Photo
Ashley and Karen in Car Photo

Top: Spectacular sunsets in Ali Curung on delivery day.
Middle: Shkarra and colleagues in Santa Teresa receiving their Certificate IV in Retail Management.
Bottom: Matt and Shkarra in their backyard at Santa Teresa.

Ashley and Karen’s Aussie Adventure

Ashley and Karen’s Aussie Adventure

For the past five years Ashley and Karen Schaefer have lived an unusual life. They have driven the length and breadth of the country, worked in the remotest of locations, and learned about diverse languages and customs. And what is more; there is no rent or mortgage to pay. Some of their friends cannot understand their choice, but they would not have it any other way.

In 2016 Ashley and Karen Shaefer were tired of running their own business in Mackay and Townsville and were looking for a change. Their priorities shifted with the passing of Ashley’s father, a sugar cane farmer whose dream it had been to drive around Australia. “He died before getting the chance to do the trip he’d always planned. We wanted to make sure that didn’t happen to us,” says Ashley. So the couple sold their home and business, bought a caravan, and hit the road.

“Many people leave their trip of a lifetime until too late. We wanted to have plenty of energy that would still allow for us to work, explore, and do some fishing too!” says Karen.

Katherine & Sugar Cane Image

Top: “I have a hero. I call him Dad” inscribed into Ashley’s father’s sugar cane tool.
Bottom: Edith Falls, near Katherine.

If you’ve got a caravan, you’ve got a home

– Ashley Schaefer

The plan was to see the country, stop occasionally where they found work, and live in their new home-on-wheels. It all fell into place, with the couple finding management work quickly at a caravan park, and then helping the administration of a mango farm. The only problem? The couple were not making enough to cover their expenses. Luckily, they met someone who had experience working in remote communities.

Soon the couple were working for Outback Stores and enjoying the benefits of a good salary, free accommodation, and seven weeks annual leave to spend exploring the country in their caravan. Thanks to the diverse locations in which Outback Stores operates, they have seen far more of the country than would have been possible while towing a caravan. In five years they have worked at remote communities in Central Australia (Yuendumu, Imanpa, Santa Teresa, Willowra), Western Australia (Jigalong and Warmun Roadhouse) and the Top End (Beswick, Bulman, Ngukurr and Groote Island).

Karen and Ashley say that the best part of this job is learning about different cultures and exploring parts of the country most people never get the chance to see. Karen appreciates learning things about Australian history that she was never taught in school, like how the rabbit-proof fence affected those families near the community of Jigalong.

Ashley and Karen in Car Photo

Top: Karen and Ashley on the road.
Bottom: Wild flowers of the Australian desert.

If you like a challenge and are ready to learn about the culture of Australia, then this is a great way to do it.

– Karen Schaefer

The couple agree that the top qualities for a remote store manager are patience, understanding, an ability to multi-task, and a willingness to adapt to any situation. Karen adds that working in remote communities is not for everyone, “But if you like a challenge and are ready to learn about the culture of Australia, then this is a great way to do it.”

A surprise bonus of their remote store work are the friendships they have made over the years, both with other store managers and community members. “There’s something about sharing these unusual life experiences that creates a really strong bond. We’ve made friends for life” says Karen.

So would they recommend this combination of remote community work and caravanning?

“It’s a great combination. The job allows you to save money and plan your next trip, and the caravan allows you the freedom to move how you want”, says Ashley.

The couple have recently returned from a five week trip to the East Coast, where they spent time visiting family and friends, as well as doing some fishing.

They are currently the store managers of Yuendumu community, almost 300 km north-west of Alice Springs, where they are enjoying the cool desert weather at the moment. However another caravan adventure is never far from their minds and they are already making plans. The next destination? Driving down through Western Australia and across the Nullarbor Plain…after that, who knows!

Outback Stores is currently hiring remote community store managers. Click here to learn more.

Ashley and Karen in Car Photo
Ashley and Karen in Car Photo
Ashley and Karen in Car Photo

Top: Visiting Uluru.
Middle: Karen working at the mango farm.
Bottom: With Outback Stores colleagues in Yuendumu community.