• Fighting back: The residents of Wujal Wujal are protecting themselves against scammers. (NITV)Source: NITV
A far north Queensland town has unveiled new road signs to empower the local Indigenous community against door-to-door sale scams.
Ella Archibald-Binge

22 Apr 2016 - 5:34 PM  UPDATED 22 Apr 2016 - 5:34 PM

Over the past few years, door-to-door salesmen have been doing "shoddy deals" within the tiny Aboriginal community of Wujal Wujal, says Mayor Desmond Tayley.

"They were selling stuff like white goods, funeral insurance and water coolers to our community members and that's been a problem for us," Mr Tayley says.

"Being Indigenous, we're really welcoming, and this is where our people fall into a trap."

Now consumer rights organisations have joined forces to unveil new 'Do not knock' road signs, warning door-to-door traders that the community knows its rights. 

The signage is a joint initiative between the Indigenous Consumer Assistance Network, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the Queensland Office of Fair Trading.

Just over three hours north of Cairns, Wujal Wujal has a population of around 300 - more than 90 percent of whom identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. In 2011, almost 1 in 5 people were unemployed. Almost half speak a language other than English at home. 

Resident Ailsa Hooker says she paid more than $1000 for a water cooler after a visit from a door-to-door salesman.

"It worked for a little while but then it stopped," she says.

"Living in a remote area, you know you sort of want something and then you pay for it. Then you get an awful surprise ... because they don't tell you how much it'll cost."

Fellow resident Lily Youdie says she's been using her pension money to pay for a water cooler and first aid kit.

"We didn't know they were ripping us off," she says.

"They were sending the letter (saying) that's how much you've gotta pay, but I can't remember now how much I was paying."

Communities like Wujal Wujal are often more vulnerable to scammers, says Office of Fair Trading Queensland executive director Brian Bauer. 

"Not just in Aboriginal communities but in migrant communities as well - people prey on those communities which can be a little more vulnerable," Mr Bauer says.

"People aren't quite as aware of their consumer rights, they're not quite as informed."

Mr Bauer says sellers often use questionable tactics to make a sale.

"For example they'll say that the local river might be polluted or the water supply might be polluted so you need to buy a water filter system and it simply isn't true quite often," he says. 

Isolation is also a factor, says Delia Rickard, deputy chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

"Often because communities are far away, people aren't aware of their rights and don't know to call us," she says.

"Traders (are) feeling no fear about coming into the community - they're a million miles from anywhere, they don't think there'll be repercussions for misleading consumers.

"We hope by having that sign it may make them think twice before they come and exploit consumers."

By law, salesmen are not permitted to approach houses where a 'do not knock' sticker is displayed.

"If that goes up on a person's door or gate and the trader still goes up there, they're committing an offence," says the Office of Fair Trading's Brian Bauer. 

Free ‘do-not-knock’ stickers or signs are available from the ACCC.

More information on consumer rights is available from www.accc.gov.au or www.qld.gov.au/fairtrading.

Indigenous consumers can also call the ACCC’s dedicated Indigenous infoline on 1300 303 143.