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.
Thank you for amplifying the voices of the local community, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and health groups, who have been fighting for what is right.
“It just goes to show people that if you can use your mouth like I do, and use it in the right way, you can get to where you want to go.”
Alongside Darwin organisations and communities, FARE fought this resource-intensive campaign for almost five years. We funded a full-page advertisement in the Financial Review, we created compelling videos that highlighted the impact of alcohol in NT communities, and we even challenged Woolworths in the NT Supreme Court.
This milestone is proof of the importance of continuing to fight and amplify the voices of communities for an Australia free of alcohol harm.
Will you pitch in to help fund future community advocacy projects like our work together on the Darwin Dan Murphy’s?
For almost five years, Woolworths relentlessly fought to build what would have been one of Australia’s largest liquor stores, an 1800-square-meter Dan Murphy’s, on the doorstep of Bagot community, a dry Aboriginal community in Darwin.
Woolworths pursued this store in the face of community opposition and concern, in the full knowledge that the Northern Territory (NT) already has the highest levels of alcohol harm in the country, and despite being aware that the proposed development threatened to undermine the successful alcohol policies that the NT Government introduced to reduce community harm.
Woolworths knew there was strong community objection to its proposed Dan Murphy’s development.
The development was opposed by the Bagot Community, members of the public, and organisations including the Northern Territory Council of Social Service (NTCOSS), Danila Dilba Health Service, Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT (AMSANT), and Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory (APONT).
The NT Liquor Commission rejected Woolworths’ application for this store. In making its decision, the Commission found that “approving the application would lead to a significant increase in the level of alcohol related harms which already exist in this community.”
It is most unfortunate that the Applicant did not engage in consulting the local community prior to committing to this site because it would, in our view, have come to the realisation that this was not an appropriate position for any liquor store, let alone one the size of Dan Murphy’s.
Yet Woolworths continued to ignore community concern in its pursuit of its giant Dan Murphy’s store, refusing to accept the clear decision of the independent Liquor Commission. They appealed to the NT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NTCAT) and then the Supreme Court. In the end, Woolworths did not win any cases in favour of building this store.
Enter the NT Government. Introduced by the Minister for Small Business in November 2020, the Government passed legislation to allow yet another re-consideration of the proposed development. This time, Woolworths could have their liquor license decided by just one person — the Director of Liquor Licensing — rather than the independent Liquor Commission.
Since the rules of natural justice did not apply under this new legislation, the Director of Liquor Licensing was not required to consult with the impacted community — and decided to approve Woolworths’ application to build their alcohol megastore in Darwin.
But this legislation and change in process also drew further attention to the problems of this store and how community views had unfairly been ignored.
In response to growing community pressure from around the country, just before receiving their liquor license approval, Woolworths announced they would fund an independent review of their proposed store led by Danny Gilbert. The review would also look at whether Woolworths had behaved appropriately in their engagement with community.
The community told their story to the review panel and made sure their voice would be heard.
In April 2021, Mr Gilbert and his panel submitted the report clearly stating that the development should not go ahead because local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities were not adequately consulted during this process.
Woolworths conceded. After almost a five-year battle, Woolworths decided not to proceed with the alcohol megastore in Darwin.
During this long period of campaigning, people from all over the country helped amplify the campaign efforts at various stages. More than 155,000 of people signed petitions and shared content on social media. They actively engaged in this campaign and made sure that Woolworths and Dan Murphy’s felt the public pressure and listened to what the communities had to say.
Woolworths’ decision to halt the development of the store is an acknowledgement to people power and how we can bring about real-world change.