Remote Queensland island hosts Salvation Army shop as residents battle ‘unattainable’ prices

The backs were pressed against the walls of the Salvation Army family store on Mornington Island during its first week of opening in May.

And for good reason.

Other than a butcher and grocery store, there are not many retail stores on the Gulf Island, making it difficult for residents to purchase goods and clothing.

Accessible only by plane and freight barge, Salvation Army Maj. Ben Johnson said the isolated community was “at the end of the line”.

Its residents – some of whom are among the country’s most vulnerable – paid “staggering” sums for basic items, according to Mornington Shire Mayor Kyle Yanner.

The Salvation Army family store crew on Mornington Island prepares for work.(Supplied: Salvation Army Cairns)

“You only have to compare the cost of our basic groceries to that of the mainland and big cities to appreciate the cost that this alone places on our people,” he said.

Mr Johnson said ‘clothing was a major need’.

So when the Salvation Army opened a shop on the island this month, offering cheap clothes as well as jobs for locals, the response was heartening.

“It’s really good,” resident Brenton Tanner said.

“I went last week and there were a lot of people in the store.

“There were decent clothes at decent prices.”

Mr Yanner said “the opening of the family store has been warmly welcomed and we hope it can help alleviate some of the pressure our community faces every day”.

Duet of salvos
Workers help unload a crate of stock for the new store.(Supplied: Salvation Army Cairns)

Basic “inaccessible” elements

As the sting of the rising cost of living was felt across the country, Mr Johnson said many would be shocked to see how badly remote communities like Mornington Island were being hit.

Mornington Island
Mornington Island is home to approximately 1,000 First Nations people.(ABC News: Dominique Schwartz)

“When we have a shortage in our metropolitan cities, we always hear about it in the media and people are very vocal on social media,” he said.

“Prices of available items are sometimes out of reach for most residents of these communities.”

Mr Johnson said some families were traveling to the mainland to shop for clothes.

“We are really filling a need by simply offering a wide range of clothing and household items.”

here to stay

Mr Johnson said the initial set up of the Mornington Island store was funded by a grant from the Salvation Army, with ongoing costs to be covered by profits made at the island store.

Additional profits would be reinvested in the community.

Salvos Mornington store
Boxes of stock to be unpacked at the new Salvation Army store on Mornington Island.(Provided: Ben Johnson)

“We are looking to run it as a social enterprise that will become financially self-sufficient after this start-up,” Mr Johnson said.

“We are training local community members to represent the Salvation Army and run the store, and we are also looking for volunteers.”

Partnerships the key

The Mornington Island Salvation Army store currently relies on donations to its Cairns facility being transported to the island.

But Mr Johnson noted there had already been a wave of donations from communities south of Mornington Island in Karumba.

“We have very good partnerships with freight companies to get inventory there cost-effectively.”

Ben Johnson celebrates with Mornington Shire Council Mayor Kyle Yanner.(Provided: Ben Johnson)

“We have the support of the local community.

“We have already received calls from people at Karumba wanting to donate just because they saw our social media posts.

“We rely on that goodwill, and if anyone has an idea of ​​how they could contribute, we would be very happy to hear from them.”

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