Woolworths has postponed the construction of a Dan Murphy’s bottle shop near three Aboriginal dry communities in the NT after years of activism and petitions from local elders.

The company has agreed to launch an independent panel review (IPR) focusing on community concerns, and has promised that construction won’t begin until that the review is completed in April 2021.

“While stakeholder engagement has been extensive to date, we acknowledge that there are some in the community that feel they have not been adequately consulted regarding the proposed store,” Woolworths Group Chairman Gordon Cairns said in a statement.

“The IPR will provide a further opportunity for them and other stakeholders with a legitimate interest in the development to express their views.”

Headed by Danny Gilbert AM – a law firm partner, co-chair of the Cape York Partnership not-for-profit org and director of the Business Council of Australia – the IPR will look at what kind of stakeholder engagement has already taken place during the Dan Murphy’s development, whether locals have been factored into decision-making, and best practices when it comes to selling alcohol locally with a particular focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander residents.

The proposed Dan Murphy’s would be in the planned Darwin Airport Retail Precinct, not far from the dry communities of Bagot, Kulaluk and Minmarama Park.

Bagot was formally an Aboriginal reserve that was handed over to the traditional owners in the 1970s. Kulaluk and Minmarama Park are adjacent communities that were established through Aboriginal land rights campaigning around the same time.

Elders from these communities have tried to stop the development from going ahead for nearly five years. A Change.org petition has even clocked over 130,000 signatures.

Woolies claims the proposed Dan Murphy’s would have the strictest liquor sales laws in the country, but critics have slammed it as a corporate assault on public health.

“Domestic violence is a big problem because of alcohol,” Bagot elder Aunty Helen Fejo-Frith told SBS News back in May this year.

“The alcohol seems to boost the emotions and then they end up having that fight, harming themselves or others.

“Then you have children watching all this happening and naturally as they grow up, they’re going to think that’s the way of life and that’s not the way of life.”

While heaps of people against the Dan Murphy’s are pleased that it’s at least been delayed, nothing says the development has been binned entirely just yet, so it’s still likely to go ahead next year.

Image: iStock / Scott Kenneth Brodie