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Funding boost as food left to rot by airstrip in remote NT community

Jarred Cross -

A Federal Government grant for a remote Northern Territory community will provide funding for a desperately required asset to provide secure food supplies for the community.

In Robinson River, where temperature can exceed 45 degrees, food is delivered by light aircraft throughout the wet season and transported back to town on a trailer.

Mungoorbada Aboriginal Corporation chief executive Kevin Liddy said the trip back from the airstrip could leave much of the food spoiled.

"All goods are exposed to these temps, dust and or mud for up to one and a half hours," he said.

"The money received will help purchase a vehicle with enough storage space to alleviate this concern.

"A vehicle that has a cool storage unit enables food stores to be transported safely without dust or mud contamination, wilting of vegetables that shorten the shelf life of goods."

The purchase is one of several successful applicants through the Federal Government's food security grants.

The distribution of funding across 43 stores and Indigenous corporations was announced on Monday by Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt

Mr Wyatt said the program would improve supply chains, storage and delivery of products for food security.

The investment is an increase on the $5 million commitment made in the 2021-22 budget.

"Since then, we've seen an increased need for reliable food security in remote communities, and we're responding with increased support," Mr Wyatt said.

"We're now investing $8 million to directly support remote stores."

Funding allocation focuses primarily on refrigeration, though the projects identified vary.

Queensland's Seisia Community Torres Strait Islander Corporation is another recipient, receiving a grant for a backup generator, in-storage facilities, vehicle, forklift and staff training along with refrigeration.

Seisia chief executive Arthur Wong said maintaining reliable power was paramount to providing food security.

"Our store has lost what must be thousands of dollars' worth of meat and freezer goods over the decades that we have been operating, simply because of the unreliable power and unplanned outages, or poorly communicated planned outages," he said.

Despite the help for his community, Mr Wong maintained there are larger issues yet to be addressed, especially for those who require further support.

"A generator will help us when the inevitably power goes out, but for remote communities, it is a band-aid approach to food security."

The funding is in line with a House of Representatives Standing Committee's Indigenous Affairs Report recommendation on food pricing and food security in remote Indigenous communities.

Grants have been secured by stores in the Northern Territory and Western Australia. Stores in Queensland, South Australia and NSW will also receive a portion.

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