Danila Dilba Health Service, one of Australia’s largest Indigenous medical groups, has launched legal action over the planned Darwin Dan Murphy’s store.
Danila Dilba filed the case in the Northern Territory Supreme Court, naming the NT Director of Liquor Licensing and Woolworths Group as defendants. The case challenges the NT Government’s recent decision to approve the Dan Murphy’s Darwin location after a complicated and at times controversial journey spanning roughly five years.
Since the original application was lodged for the store, there have been a number of rejections, appeals, opposition and discussion with community and health groups, as well as an independent Liquor Commission which also rejected the application.
In November last year, the NT Government fast-tracked the introduction of a new bill into Parliament that allowed the Director of Liquor Licensing to make fresh and final decisions on some bottle shop applications, including that of Darwin Dan Murphy’s. The Director ultimately approved the application in December, on the condition that the store closed at 9pm and adhered to other liquor retail regulation, which gave the crucial green light to Darwin plans from Endeavour Group (owned by Woolworths Group).
At the time, Director of Liquor Licensing Philip Timney noted how the proposed store would reduce sales at competing outlets and that the project would have a significant and positive impact on the local economy, injecting $15 million of private investment. He also said that most of Darwin supported the store, including two out of three nearby Aboriginal communities, claims that were contrary to arguments made by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE).
According to the Australian Associated Press (AAP), the Danila Dilba legal team says the decision was flawed with legal error. The case asks the court to consider whether there was a failure to consider key evidence and community views, and whether it was up to the director to make the final decision at all. It also alleges the Endeavour Group’s community consultation was inadequate.
Olga Havnen, Danila Dilba Chief Executive, said: “There’s no harm caused to the community by taking the time to properly consider the public interest and community impact of the proposal. But there is a lot of potential harm in a rushed process that neglects the public health impact.”
AAP reports that she also said Darwin was already “awash with takeaway liquor” and that: “We don’t need another store, especially one located so close to three dry Aboriginal communities.”
In November last year, Endeavour Group confirmed that it would be moving the site of the proposed Dan Murphy’s Darwin store to be further away from these communities. The group said this decision had been made after extensive consultation with community groups.
Following this move, in December Woolworths Group announced the formation of an independent panel review of the Darwin plans, which would review health concerns, stakeholder engagement and other processes behind the store.
At the time, Woolworths Group Chairman Gordon Cairns said: “We acknowledge that there are some in the community that feel they have not been adequately consulted regarding the proposed store. The IPR will provide a further opportunity for them and other stakeholders with a legitimate interest in the development to express their views.”
On Friday, AAP reported that Woolworths said no work would commence on the Darwin location until the panel review was complete. It also reports that the group declined to comment further as the matter was before the courts.