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Each and every day, our Campbells and Convenience team go above and beyond to service small businesses across Australia. Earlier this month, we sat down with one of our expert Account Managers, Robbie-John Allison, to learn about the remote Indigenous communities that are home to many of his customers in Northern QLD and the NT.

“We’re based out of Cairns, which is quite unique because we’re so far away from a main distribution centre. The main distribution centre in Queensland is in Brisbane, which is a good 1700 kilometres away”, shares Robbie. Out of the Cairns Campbells warehouse, the team service customers ranging from airport kiosks, takeaway shops, grocery stores and cafes, to service stations, hospitals and corrections centres. A lot of those places become one stop shops because they they’re the only facility of their kind in a remote town.

Connecting the Cut-Off

“Many of the Indigenous communities that our customers sit in are quite remote, which means they’re frequently impacted by adverse weather”, explains Robbie, “part of my job is helping these stores be prepared when they’re being cut off for three, sometimes up to six, months per year”.

For example, last year, a town with a large Indigenous population called Doomadgee was impacted by significant flooding that swallowed the roads in and out of the town. It was October when they got cut off, and they didn’t get trucks through until March. During those months there was no way in or out, apart from by plane.

“The Campbells team worked with the Doomadgee based store to ensure the people in that area would have what they need to last through the extended periods of isolation”, shares Robbie, “I’m incredibly passionate about doing what I can to help Indigenous communities who are often forgotten about just because of their geographic location”.  That season, Robbie and his team supplied up to 26 times more pallets to Doomadgee than they would in a usual order ensure they got through.

Going the Extra Mile

For Robbie and his team, supporting these communities goes far beyond wholesaling. They also play a big role in supporting local initiatives that have a positive impact on first nations people.

“We partner with our large customers that have lots of stores across Queensland and the Northern Territory on community events and sporting tournaments for the local people”, said Robbie. For example, each year up in the Torres Strait, they have an ‘Island of Origin’ event. Island of Origin is a rugby league competition that is like a local, mini version of the ‘State or Origin’ for up-and-coming Torres Strait Islander athletes.

“Last year, we did a massive donation up there to help facilitate some barbecues for the event, making sure they had all the products they needed to feed the hungry crowd”, Robbie recounted. It was a fantastic way for Campbells to give back to the local communities in a way that supports their unique culture.

Prioritising Community Needs

Robbie also feels that liaising with the broader Metcash business and advocating for the needs of Indigenous people is a critical part of his role as an Account Manager. “I’m always partnering with the merchandise team and suppliers to get promotions on lines which might not be front of mind for someone sitting in the support office”, he said. “One of the lines I’m working on at the moment is Hamper, which is a tinned corned beef brand that you’d be lucky to even find it in Sydney. But up here, one of major customers with lots of stores sells 660,000 tins per year. I know it’s a food the local people love to eat, so getting it at a competitive price point makes a big difference for them.”

Robbie, and the whole Cairns Campbells team, are the embodiment of our purpose at Metcash. We’re proud to see them championing Aussie businesses and supporting local communities in everything they do.