A plan by Woolworths to launch a Dan Murphy’s liquor megastore in Darwin has been scrapped following backlash and action from local communities.
A large-scale development plan had been drawn up by Woolworths to set up a Dan Murphy’s store in Darwin’s northern suburbs – on airport land located near three dry Aboriginal communities. This would have been the largest alcohol store in the Northern Territory. There was high cause for concern among groups that the dangers of alcohol-related harm in local communities would be exacerbated further if the store were to open.
A number of community leaders and organisations spoke out against the plan, including the Danila Dilba Health Service, who filed a legal case in the Northern Territory Supreme Court in early March to stop the state government’s decision to approve the bottle shop.
In a statement, Woolworths said it had undertaken a review, spearheaded by commercial lawyer Danny Gilbert, that found little had been done to communicate with Aboriginal groups standing against the development.
“The Gilbert review has made it clear that we did not do enough in this community to live up to the best practice engagement,” said chairman Gordon Cairns.
“We did not do enough stakeholder engagement with a range of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and organisations.”
The full review and the official response by Woolworths will be released in June.
Relief, but wariness
There is widespread relief among the groups that have been fighting against the development.
In a joint statement, the Danila Dilba Health Service, Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT), Northern Territory Council of Social Services (NTCOSS), and Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) called the decision a “huge community victory” and “an acknowledgement of the significant harm the store would cause the community”.
“This is a huge community victory after years of poor consultation and lack of empathy for community concerns from one of the nation’s biggest corporations.
“The outcome is a result of many years of advocacy from community members and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, health and community organisations who have been fighting for what is right,” reads the statement.
The groups are also wanting confirmation that a new development will not simply go up elsewhere under the licence granted by the local government.
“Woolworths must now guarantee that they will retain the licence and not pass it over to Endeavour Group, their alcohol subsidiary, to try again to build this store after the planned demerger.
“Until Woolworths confirms they will retain the liquor licence, the possibility of a Dan Murphy’s being built in the greater Darwin area will remain.
“Woolworths cannot leave the back door open for another application in the months and years ahead by themselves or their alcohol arm Endeavour Group.”
Woolworths chief executive Brad Banducci is not ruling out the possibility of a Dan Murphy’s store going up in another Darwin location.
“What we have announced today is that we will not be proceeding on the current location,” Banducci said in a Thursday morning shareholder briefing, as reported by ABC.
“As to whether there’s a future Dan Murphy’s in Darwin that would be up to [Woolworths subsidiary] the Endeavour Group but certainly in any engagement process going forward we will take on board the Gilbert Review findings and adjust how we consult on those matters.”