OUTBACK EDUCATION IN THE ‘NOT TOO DISTANT’ PAST (29)

Warburton Ranges (WA) in 1974-75 (29)

There were from time to time, complaints about the way the Warburton Store operated. This had to do in part withe the selection of good available for purchase. The general fare was pretty basic, with ‘flour, sugar and tea’ being the product types generally visible to the public. Staff were able to place orders for a wider range of goods, but what the shop held in overall terms was not all that apparent.

On one occasion, the storekeeper and his wife had to depart Warburton for personal business. They left with little noticed given to the community and without arrangements being made from the store to open in order to provide for the people. After the store had been closed fore several days, community members were naturally on edge, with no-one sure about what was going to happen and when supplies would be available.

Several members of staff decided that the only options we had available was to open the shop. This happened, with the Welfare Officer, myself and several other people going in to play at being shop persons and counter managers. While in the shop, we did some exploration and discovered goods we did not know the shop stocked. Unknown goods included delicacies including confectionary and in particular, chocolate.

These goods were produced and put out for sale. Stocks were rapidly exhausted and the needs of customers satisfied in ways they may not have previously been met.

The corollary was that when the store manager and his wife returned, there was some ‘concern’ about the sales policies we had established when managing the store in their absence. They eventually resigned and left, with the person replacing them quickly and absolutely overwhelmed by the raft of responsibilities confronted. These were magnified the week following his ascension when the supply truck arrived with perishable and general goods. He was overwhelmed and did not know what to do with delivery documents or the goods that flowed liberally from the back of the truck and its refrigerated unit. I remember him sitting on a pile of goods, tossing the paperwork attached to the load of freight into the air, before putting his head in his hands in despair.

While the new era of Federal Government aimed at self management and determination for communities, it was a sad reality that key staff in many communities were not themselves, sufficiently skilled to handle responsibilities, let alone impart management skills to others. I believe this deficit continued well into years beyond 1974 and 1975. Intentions may have been good but there was a world of difference between change in theory and its effectiveness in practice.

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