The remote Indigenous communities of Papunya and Haasts Bluff in Australia’s Northern Territory have long been reliant on a small local store for their supplies.

Inadequate dry storage and refrigeration, however, meant fresh produce was expensive and hard to come by. So too was qualified staff to manage the fully-equipped grocery store, due to the lack of appropriate accommodation and rental properties in the area.

The Commonwealth Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (formerly the Department of Families, Housing Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA)) is driving a program to construct and refurbish grocery stores and staff accommodation in 18 of the remote communities in the Northern Territory.

The project is funded through the Aboriginal Benefits Account (ABA) which is an account established to receive and distribute royalty equivalent monies on Indigenous land in the Northern Territory.

The ABA aims to provide each community with a properly-run food store with good, healthy food available in accordance with the Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory Act 2012.

The new stores will be operated by qualified staff, and costs will be minimised through standard practice store design. Some of the new stores will also be provided with new or upgraded fuel facilities.

AECOM was engaged by FaHCSIA in 2012 through Davis Langdon, an AECOM Company, as the management and design consultant for the project.  We provided project management, and design and cost management services,  including contract and construction management.

Our team worked with community stakeholders, including local indigenous store committees and all levels of Territory and Federal Government agencies, to keep the project on track.

The first new stores – Haasts Bluff and Papunya – opened in November 2014 in the central desert region, 3 hours’ drive west of Alice Springs.