Food security in New South Wales
Goodooga’s only store had been closed for sixteen years when the COVID-19 pandemic struck the small town in August 2021.
The closest grocery store or fuel-pump was a 150-kilometre round trip to Lightening Ridge – a journey made particularly problematic amidst the pandemic’s travel restrictions.
To resolve this food security issue, Outback Stores acted quickly to set up a temporary store in the local town hall, stocking basic groceries such as milk, bread, meat, fruit and vegetables.
“The town was quite isolated and fearful during the COVID-19 lockdown. So the convenience of buying food locally was a great help, particularly to the elderly,” says Lyall Gibbs who grew up in Goodooga and now works for the NSW Aboriginal Housing Office.
A new store has now been built in Goodooga, which opened in June 2022, on the site of the previous store.
Top: Goodooga Store during construction
Bottom: Opening day in Goodooga store
Feedback has been good from the community. By the time we get the fuel pump and new kitchen installed, we’ll be all guns blazing.
– Lyall Gibbs, NSW Aboriginal Housing Office
Wilcannia, on the banks of the Darling River, is even more isolated, being situated 200km from the closest town of Broken Hill.
Despite its location on a major highway, it only has one store and a handful of other local businesses to service its 550 residents, half of whom are Indigenous.
“After seeing what Outback Stores did for Goodooga, we knew that it was what Wilcannia needed,” says Michael Cooper, Deputy CEO of Regional Enterprise Development Institute (REDI.E), an Indigenous organisation delivering employment and community services to the area.
After Outback Stores started operating, Michael Cooper says the community immediately noticed an improved store presentation, increased range and cheaper prices. In addition to this the store has facilitated a range of job opportunities for local people.
Wilcannia will soon receive approximately $1.1 million in two rounds of funding from both Federal and State Governments to go towards upgrading, extending and developing the store.
There are hopes that the store upgrades will help to revitalise this once-thriving rural town. With the recent sale of the local petrol station and motel, it looks like that could well be a possibility.
This story features in the Outback Stores Annual Report 2021-22
After seeing what Outback Stores did for Goodooga, we knew that it was what Wilcannia needed.
– Michael Cooper, Deputy CEO of REDI.E