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Wilcannia co-op a goer

Wednesday, 19th March, 2014

By Erica Visser

The potential for a planned Wilcannia co-op is looking brighter than ever with ideas from tourism to a butchers shop to be pitched soon.

Wilcannia has been working to form a co-op for about a year, after the owner of the town’s only supermarket left residents without food supplies in 2012 when he closed the shop without notice.

Both the Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities have since banded together to form a board and an entity was registered under the name Wilcannia Community Cooperative Limited late last year.

Centacare Wilcannia-Forbes CEO Phil Lawler said yesterday that the community had come a long way over the past year.

“It was uncertain when we started but it’s good to see it was supported by the community,” he said. 

Mr Lawler said that there were around a dozen plausible ideas to provide services and generate income for the community, however only three would likely be pursued during the start-up phase.

Centacare is in the process of securing a $150,000 start-up investment for the co-op which would be provided over three years.

Mr Lawler said that he should know within the coming weeks whether the organisation would receive the money, which would be provided from a private trust fund by an unknown investor.

He said that around $45,000 would go towards hiring a Sydney company to visit Wilcannia and provide specialist advice to the board about starting up ventures.

The board is headed by local David Clark and is seeking to more members.

“Dave Clark will now be canvassing the community to increase the member base,” Mr Lawler said.

“I’ll be taking a step back and be behind the scenes.” 

The great thing about the co-op, Mr Lawler said, was that it was being done at a grassroots level and gave the Wilcannia community control over its own future.

“Everyone’s very keen. Both the non-Indigenous and Indigenous communities think this is a great opportunity for the town to actually do something for themselves,” Mr Lawler said.

“Year one will be to actually build a platform for the future. There’s been all sorts of ideas for projects to kickstart the revenue; for example, opening a butcher shop or a second-hand furniture store, or getting involved with tourism with river walks finished off with a bush tucker lunch.

“We’re still looking at the extension of vegetable gardens in Wilcannia.”

The Anglican Church, which is these days unused, has offered the space to the board for offices and storage.

“In three years’ time, a number of activities will be on the boil with money coming back in.

“The co-op could come in and say that a monthly market would be the best thing to do ... the other idea for fresh produce was to encourage everyone to grow something in their own backyard and the co-op would provide the venue for selling goods.”

Meanwhille, a Community Foodcare program will begin in the town tomorrow.

It will deliver fresh food to those who have signed up to the program and had been approved.

Mr Lawler said that it was hoped that the co-op would take over the management of the program after it was implemented.

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