More than 138,000 people have signed a petition opposing Woolwoorths’ plan to open a Dan Murphy’s megastore in Darwin, within walking distance of three dry Indigenous communities.
The petition has been spearheaded by Aboriginal community leaders and Aboriginal health organisations who say the liquor megastore – that would be located near Bagot, Kulaluk and Minmarama Park – will heighten the risks of alcohol fueled violence, pedestrian safety and the erosion of culture.
Helen Fejo-Frith, President of the Bagot Community Advisory Group, has just delivered the petition to Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner’s office, which had 137,000 signatures at the time. The petition is continuing to grow online and has been signed by over 138,000 at the time of writing.
In a video accompanying the online petition, Helen Fejo-Frith has encouraged people from across Australia to sign the petition, opposing what will be one of the largest liquor stores in Australia.
“At the moment there’s a lot of people around Australia that’s behind me, but I said we need more and we need more from Darwin. We need more of you Territory mob…everybody else out there who wants to stand alongside of us please jump aboard,” she said.
“We were born here, we lived here most of our life. We’ve seen the impact that this does on a lot of our people and a lot of other people. There’s so much domestic violence and children are not getting looked after.”
She has previously described herself in an earlier plea to Woolworths as someone who watches over her family carefully. “When our mob gets together they call me mum, aunty, or nan and they behave when I’m around cause they’ve got respect for us Elders. I have ten kids, eight are still alive, and 37 grandkids, plus 37 great-grandkids.”
DELIVERED! Aunty Helen just stood with Olga Havnen (CEO, Danila Dilba Health Service) & John Paterson (CEO, Aboriginal Medical Service Alliance NT) and delivered the 137k petition supporting her fight against @woolworths & @danmurphys. #KeepGrogOut #ShameWoolies pic.twitter.com/wOc9yDnFdo— Change.org Australia (@ChangeAus) December 15, 2020
CEO of the Northern Land Council Marion Scrymgour said there has been no consultation with the land council and minimal consultation with local community groups.
“As the CEO of the largest land council in the Northern Territory, there has been no consultation with myself, with the land council. They may have consulted one or two groups around Darwin. It is really important to get the views of everybody here,” Scrymgour said.
“We all have a stake in this. This is our community.”
45 leaders of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community organisations have also penned an open letter to Woolworths chairman Gordon Cairns, calling on him to stop the opening of the liquor megastore. The letter said Woolworths’ pursuit of the Dan Murphy’s store in Darwin is the “willful and deliberate destruction of the health of our community” and will be judged similarly to the destruction of sacred Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sites elsewhere in the country.
“This is our home. The people whose lives your bottle shop threatens are our loved ones — our families, friends and neighbours,” the open letter says.
“We have been working together to create a stronger, healthier and more resilient community. Would you really undermine all that for the sake of extra profit?
“We are sure you know the impact that alcohol products are having in communities across Australia — the violence, disease and misery that spreads like a cancer.
“We ask that you spare our community that fate. We ask that you put people above profits. We ask that you take the time to actually listen to what we’re telling you.
“At no point has Woolworths engaged meaningfully with our community about building this Dan Murphy’s store. If you had, you would know the depth of our concern and opposition.”
The pursuit by Woolworths to build the store in Darwin has been ongoing for five years, with community leaders opposed from the outset. Faced with a wave of community pressure, Woolworths agreed in November to re-locate the proposed site of the store 1.3 kilometres further away from the dry Indigenous communities.
The open letter from community leaders says this is nothing more than “public relations spin designed to protect your public image”.
The Northern Territory Director of Liquor Licensing will give a final decision on the Dan Murphy’s megastore by December 20.