Woolworths Group has apologised for its failings during the Darwin Dan Murphy’s saga, after it scrapped the new store’s plans in April.  

The company had decided not to move forward with the store’s application after an Independent Panel Review (known as the Gilbert Review) briefed Woolworths’ Management and Board on its findings. At the time, the Woolworths Group Board requested that Management prepare a response to a series of recommendations made in the panel’s report.

This response, as well as the 144 page Gilbert Review itself, has now been published, with Woolworths Group acknowledging it has “a lot to learn” in its reflections on the report.

“There is much to be done. Some of the issues in the Report we reflect on now. However, the Report sets out a number of issues on which Woolworths must reflect more deeply, and in consultation with others,” the response read.

“We failed to listen effectively on our Darwin Dan Murphy’s proposal and we must address this in all that we do from here.”

Since the liquor licence for the Darwin store was surrendered to the NT Government, Woolworths Group said its attention has now moved to further reflection on the Gilbert Review.

Some of the issues that the Independent Panel addressed in the Gilbert Review include corporate purpose, citizenship, reputation, legitimacy and trust, especially when it comes to engagement with communities and with Indigenous people.  

With the response documents, Woolworths has also published letters to Gilbert from the management and board of both Woolworths Group and Endeavour Group, thanking the panel for its review and acknowledging the issues it raised.

A letter from Woolworths Chairman Gordon Cairns, CEO Brad Banducci and Sustainability Committee Chair Holly Kramer read: “As the report highlights, on this occasion we clearly failed to meet our expectations and we deeply regret our insensitivity to critical stakeholders in Darwin and beyond, and our own external Indigenous Advisory Panel, whose advice we did not seek. For that, we unreservedly apologise.”

Accompanying the apology and reflections are a number of immediate and near term measures that both Woolworths Group and Endeavour Group have committed to. The core goal of these measures is centered on strengthening the foundations of a better relationship with Indigenous people.

Some of the multiple measures identified by Woolworths Group along these lines include committing significant time to personal meetings and conversations between senior leaders and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities; improving recruitment, training, retention and advancement of Indigenous staff; and fundamentally resetting Woolworths relationship with First Nations Advisors.

In the Endeavour Group letter to Gilbert, Chairman-elect Peter Hearl and Managing Director and CEO-elect Steve Donohue detailed some immediate steps too.

The letter said this includes: “Undertaking an ESG assessment on current development proposals, and engaging senior management in a review of those assessments; reviewing the extent and timing to which the reputation and sustainability teams are involved in development applications; and commencing the process of ‘bridging the divide’ between Endeavour Group and public health groups, with a focus on addressing alcohol-related harms in a more holistic manner.”

As well as acknowledging the issues of Woolworths Group and Endeavour Group in this process, the Gilbert Review report also addressed the Northern Territory government’s role in the matter.

The report explored the impact of the Riley Review, which saw significant changes to liquor regulation in the state after it was completed in 2017. It also noted multiple issues surrounding the 2020 legislation changes that ultimately gave power to the NT Director of Liquor Licensing to bypass objections and approve historical applications, which it did with the Darwin Dan Murphy’s.

The report read: “Good decision-making that has an element of consistency is a key component of good public policy. The Panel considers that components of the Director’s decision [to approve the Darwin Dan Murphy’s store] are problematic from a public policy perspective.”

The Gilbert Review report, Woolworths Group reflections and the two related letters can be explored in full through the Woolworths website.

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Brydie Allen

Editor of National Liquor News

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