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Working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Food security in remote Indigenous communities

Government response to food security inquiry

On 21 May 2020, the Minister for Indigenous Australians the Hon Ken Wyatt AM MP, wrote to the chair of the Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs, requesting an inquiry into food security and food pricing in remote Indigenous communities.

The Australian Government tabled its response to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Indigenous Affair’s report into Food Security and Food Pricing in remote Indigenous communities on 2 December 2021.

The report makes 16 recommendations including, a live price monitoring tool, national licensing, a focus on local distribution and food production and grants to support community stores as well as other measures to address store governance and management.

The report also recommends consideration of a national strategy for food security and nutrition for remote First Nations communities. The Government has supported or provided in-principle support for 10 of the 16 recommendations.

Many of the recommendations cut across Commonwealth portfolio and jurisdictional responsibilities. The Indigenous Affairs Taskforce of the National Federation Reform Council has agreed to develop a national strategy for priority actions on food security, including consideration of a new national stores licencing regime.

The NIAA has lead the development of the Government’s response including consultations across governments.

Food security grants – applications now closed

Applications are now closed for the $5 million Strengthening Remote Communities – Food Security Grant Opportunity. Funding will support remote stores experiencing significant barriers to address food security risks in their community. The National Indigenous Australians Agency has received over 60 applications. Grant outcomes will be published on GrantConnect after the assessment process is complete.

Good nutrition is essential to good health and a strong future

Food Security means having access to a range of food and drinks that are reasonably priced, safe and meet the nutritional needs of the household.

Access to food and other essential items affects and is underpinned by social, cultural and economic factors. These include income, education and physical access. The National Agreement on Closing the Gap commits all Australian governments to change the way we work to share decision-making and partner with Indigenous Australians to improve outcomes. Food security has direct links to Closing the Gap health outcomes and indirect links to education and employment outcomes.

Through the Indigenous Advancement Strategy, the Australian Government provides funding to Indigenous communities and businesses for place-based projects to improve community nutrition outcomes.

This includes School Nutrition Projects (SNP) which provide meal services to students in 75 schools across the Northern Territory. A key objective of the SNP is to improve school attendance and learning outcomes. Through the SNP, NIAA grant recipients provide a combination of breakfast, morning tea, lunch or afternoon tea to students attending school. Meals are prepared in accordance with the NT Department of Education’s School Nutrition and Healthy Eating Policy and National nutrition standards.

We have established a dedicated Food Security Working Group (Working Group) to identify solutions to issues affecting regional and remote Australia. The Working Group includes community store managers, wholesalers and suppliers, transport services, and senior representatives from state and territory governments and other crucial private and public sector organisations supporting supply chains to continue to meet the food security needs of remote communities.

We also work directly with community stores on planning and governance to support sustainable businesses and competitive pricing.

  • In the Northern Territory this work is being done through Community Stores Licensing.
  • Across Australia we work in partnership with the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC) and Outback Stores Pty Ltd (Outback Stores).

Community Stores Licensing – Northern Territory

The licensing of community stores began in 2007. There are now more than 100 licensed stores in remote communities across the Northern Territory legislated under the Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory Act 2012.

Community Stores Licencing requires licensed stores to meet quality and sustainability standards set by the Australian Government. Consultation with the community and store owners is a key part of this process.

Licensed community stores need to:

  • have good quality, healthy food available including fresh fruit and vegetables;
  • be a safe, clean place for people to shop; and
  • meet standards for how the store should run and how things should be sold.

Licensing applies in the ‘Food Security Area’ which covers the whole Northern Territory except for Darwin and Palmerston, Katherine, Tennant Creek, Alice Springs and Nhulunbuy. A community store may have to be licensed if it is in the Food Security Area and is an important source of food, drink or grocery items for an Indigenous community. The local community contributes to deciding if a store must be licensed. 

Licensing is not needed in larger towns and cities. Enough competition between stores keeps pricing competitive and a variety of food, drink and grocery outlets allows people to choose where they shop.

Community Stores – outside the Northern Territory

If you would like support for a store outside of the Northern Territory, you can contact:

  • Outback Stores – provides retail store management and support services to Aboriginal owned community stores. Outback Stores does not receive any store profits; however does charge a fee for services.

Outback Stores

Outback Stores Pty Ltd (OBS) is a wholly owned and independent Commonwealth Company created under the Corporations Act 2001. Its operations are governed by a Company Constitution and an independent board of directors who are appointed by the Commonwealth. As a Commonwealth Company OBS must meet the requirements of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act). The OBS board is responsible for the strategic direction of the Company. The Chief Executive officer, who is appointed by the Board, is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Company. OBS is an Indigenous Portfolio Body in the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PMC) portfolio. To improve outcomes for Indigenous Australians the NIAA collaborates with all Indigenous Portfolio Bodies in the PMC portfolio, including Outback Stores.

OBS was established in November 2006 and emerged from a need to improve the health of Indigenous people in remote Australia. Its purpose is to improve access to healthy foods for Indigenous people in remote Australia. OBS provides retail store management and support services on a fee for service basis to Aboriginal owned community stores and works closely with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in a holistic way to improve health, nutrition, employment, training and economic outcomes for first our Australians.

OBS strives to enable and empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to live healthy and prosperous lives and work towards Closing the Gap. OBS does not receive any of the profits from the stores it manages on behalf of the community. Any store profits belong to the storeowner.

For further information, including locations, please visit Outback Stores.

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