Woolies has finally backed down from its controversial plan to build a massive Dan Murphy’s bottle-o right near three dry Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory.
The proposal to build the huge bottle shop within walking distance from the dry communities of Bagot, Kulaluk and Minmarama Park, has been opposed by local Elders for years.
Bagot Elder Aunty Helen Fejo-Frith took a leading role in the fight against the store. More recently, the BlakBusiness Instagram account set up a petition in solidarity on Change.org which amassed over 155,000 signatures and widespread public support.
Aunty Helen, who lost four of her own brothers to alcohol, previously said that “a big megastore like Dan Murphy’s would be the end of a lot of people.”
Her first major win in this battle was getting Woolies to postpone construction last year for an independent review to assess people’s issues. The conclusion of that review was that the store shouldn’t go ahead, which is a recommendation that Woolies has finally decided to follow.
Four major organisations who backed the push – the Danila Dilba Health Service, the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory, the NT Council of Social Services Northern Territory, and the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education – issued a joint statement welcoming the outcome.
“Woolworths’ decision to abandon its plans to build an alcohol megastore near the community of Bagot in Darwin is an acknowledgement of the significant harm the store would cause the community,” the statement read.
“This is a huge community victory after years of poor consultation and lack of empathy for its concerns from one of the nation’s biggest corporations.”
.@jpatto12 BREAKING NEWS: Woolworths – the parent company of Dan Murphy’s – has announced it will not proceed with the Darwin development.
— Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT????????❤️ (@AMSANTaus) April 28, 2021
“The Gilbert Review [which assessed the issue] has made it clear that we did not do enough in this community to live up to the best practice engagement to which we hold ourselves accountable,” Woolworths Group Chairman Gordon Cairns said in a statement on Thursday.
“In particular, we did not do enough stakeholder engagement with a range of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and organisations.”
The outcome has also been welcomed by Danila Dilba Aboriginal Health Service Chief Executive Olga Havnen.
“We think that’s the right thing to do and it was certainly more than just the lack of appropriate consultation,” she told the ABC on Thursday.
“It actually goes to the question of public health issues, the public health concerns that we raised consistently and the potential for increased harm as a result of alcohol.”
Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance CEO John Paterson previously said that if Woolies had just meaningfully engaged with local communities in the first place, the whole proposal would’ve been scrapped from day dot.
“The community have been fighting hard to be heard this whole time. All they’ve ever wanted is for Woolworths to listen,” he told PEDESTRIAN.TV in December.
The next step is for Woolies is to make sure they don’t pas son the licence to its alcohol subsidiary Endeavour Group, which is currently being split from the parent company.
“Woolworths cannot leave the back door open for another application in the months and years ahead by themselves or their alcohol arm Endeavour Group,” the joint statement from stakeholder groups read.
But for now, it’s good to see that Woolies has finally listened. It’s a massive win for the people of Bagot, Kulaluk and Minmarama Park, as well as for everyone else who backed Elders’ campaigning to keep their communities safe, healthy and grog-free.