ALPA was established in 1972. We began as a co-operative of community stores in seven Arnhemland communities. We operate a successful retail enterprise, with a turnover of approximately $75 million across the Group.
We have come a long way since 1972 - from small, counter sales stores in tin sheds, to full self-service, air-conditioned stores offering an extensive range of quality goods in remote communities.
How ALPA began
Prior to 1972, the Indigenous people of Arnhem Land (Yolŋu) were under the supervision of the Methodist Overseas Mission Commission (MOM). The community stores were owned and operated by the church.
MOM established the Arnhem Land Civic and Economic Development Council Inc (CEDAR) for Yolŋu economic development, forseeing the possibility that government funding structures would change under the Whitlam government. The Arnhem Land Progress Association Incorporated was formed as an activity of CEDAR.
ALPA’s initial members were seven community stores: Ajurumu (Goulburn Island), Gapuwiyak (Lake Evella), Galiwin’ku (Elcho Island), Milingimbi, Minjilang (Croker Island), Ramingining and Yirrkala. ALPA borrowed almost $1m to upgrade plant and equipment, and the early successful operation of the stores enabled the loan to be repaid within three years. Since that time ALPA has been financially independent.
Training and development
In the 1970s ALPA began to realise the importance of training and development for its staff, and with support from the Queensland Retail Training Institute began a program of in-house training. The Training School at Galiwin’ku was built to support this. The construction of the training centre in itself was a training program with Yolŋu trainees doing the bulk of the work.
We standardised policies, systems and procedures to benefit Yolŋu staff, who could then to be trained in all store operational duties. We continue to focus on education, training and development as an integral part of our activities.
We also started our Benevolent Programs, using the modest surplus funds generated from store operations to benefit the community. Financial assistance for ceremonies, education, medical escorts and community events can be obtained through these programs.
Traditional Credit Union
When the Commonwealth and Westpac Banks withdrew services from communities in the early 1990s, ALPA initiated and largely financed the establishment of the Traditional Credit Union, to provide banking facilities for members in remote communities across the Top End. An intense two-year community education program preceded the establishment.
Forty years on…
We have expanded our stores and takeaways, and extended trading hours to provide a better, more reliable service for our members in remote communities. Our ongoing focus is on improving the health and nutrition of Yolŋu people in Arnhemland communities.