• A coalition of Aboriginal organisations from the Northern Territory are calling on the Federal Government to do more in ensuring essential goods are affordable. (PETER PARKS/AFP via Getty Images)Source: PETER PARKS/AFP via Getty Images
A coalition of 13 Aboriginal organisations from the Northern Territory has called on the Federal Government to ensure affordable goods reach residents living in locked-down remote communities in the state.
Brooke Fryer

21 Apr 2020 - 7:42 AM  UPDATED 21 Apr 2020 - 7:42 AM

Leaders from the bodies requested the Commonwealth establish a 20 per cent point-of-sale subsidy of essential food, cleaning and personal hygiene products, winter bedding and clothes in remote communities to offset high prices.

The group is also asking the Federal Government to encourage producers to set goods aside for independent supermarkets.

Donna Ah Chee, Chief Executive of the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, says the Federal Government must prioritise the issue.

“We urge the national cabinet to take action before it is too late because time is all remote Aboriginal communities have on their side in their fight against the virus. We are all affected by this crisis, some more than others when it comes to accessing affordable food,” she said.

“We want preventative action. This is all about making sure remote Aboriginal people can depend 100 per cent on their one community store as they are not in a position to shop around, we have no more time to waste.”

Food security has previously been flagged by the Central Land Council (CLC) as a major concern. Panic buying in the wake of the Coronavirus in metropolitan areas across the country has seen extreme shortages further along the production line.

Central Land Council CEO Joe Martin-Jard told NITV News that suppliers are under demand from larger supermarkets to re-stock, leaving the smaller supermarkets struggling to get the goods they need.

"We hear that some of the better-stocked stores are only getting about 70 per cent of their stock refilled,” Mr Martin-Jard said.

“But in some of the really remote stores, we’re getting photos from those communities that are showing the shelves completely depleted.”

Mr Martin-Jard said that the shortages have led to families travelling outside of their communities and into larger cities for more affordable goods. He said its crucial that smaller stores are stocked up as travel always poses the risk of coming into contact with the virus.

“This would stop people from being tempted to drive from their communities into Alice Springs to do shopping where they can get cheaper prices for things like essential food, warm bedding and clothing essential goods,” he said.

The CEO of not-for-profit Mai Wiru Regional Stores Aboriginal Corporation, which operates stores in the NT and the APY Lands, released a statement earlier this month warning of catastrophic consequences for remote Indigenous peoples if the food supply chain is not secured.

Dennis Bate said he has seen store managers receiving as little as 40 per cent of their ordered products due lack of availability. This lack of supply, he says, would be “detrimental to their health and well being and that would be catastrophic.”

The Minister for Indigenous Affairs Ken Wyatt has said that it's a high priority of the Australian Government to ensure that remote communities have reliable supplies of food and critical items during the pandemic.