The remote town of Goodooga sits on the northern fringe of the Brewarrina Shire in north-west New South Wales, and for the past decade its residents - many of them Aboriginal - have struggled to find the groceries they need.
A decade ago, the towns only supermarket closed, and since then Goodooga's locals have had to make 2-hour round trips to nearby Lightning Ridge whenever the need to buy supplies.
Now the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has made matters a whole lot worse, as the supermarket shelves of neighbouring town are emptied, Goodooga residents are increasingly faced with the prospect of making an 8-hour round trip to Dubbo to get their essential items.
On Friday, during a parliamentary inquiry into the challenges faced in remote communities with accessing affordable and fresh food, the chairperson of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, Anne Dennis, submitted in detail these struggles faced in Goodooga.
“The community of Goodooga, have been trying to fight for a supermarket in their community for the past 15-years,” said Ms Dennis.
“They need to travel to Lightning Ridge, which is 80 kilometres, an hour away and particularly heightened in these times, getting to Lightning Ridge, there was nothing on the shelves.
“Then it's another 75 kilometres through to Walgett and a 3-hour [4-hour] drive through to Dubbo.”
In May last year, local Federal Member for Parkes, Mark Coulton, announced $1.7 million over three years to establish an Indigenous-owned and operated store, but construction has yet to begin.
At the 2016 census, Goodooga had a population of 247, with 74.4% of the population being Aboriginal, and Ms Dennis said living payday-to-payday was also an issue for Aboriginal people in the community, who didn’t have the luxury of buying groceries whenever they pleased.
“Being able to stock up and have those items during normal times [was normal] because of distance of travel and because of isolation, but during this pandemic, it was quite noticeable, quite critical that Aboriginal people had to wait till payday, until they receive their benefits and getting to the shops," she said.
The inquiry has so far been told of problems including the sale of rotten meat in one remote NT store, and another remote community store in the NT which was completely depleted of its stock in one day.
A final report by the inquiry committee is expected to be tabled in parliament in late October.