Monday, May 20, 2024

Kiwi connections across the outback

Frank Lomas was running a grocery store in New Zealand in 2012 when he saw a job advertised with Outback Stores in the local newspaper. He thought it might be a great way to explore Australia while utilising his retail skills, without the pressure of running his own business.

Soon he and his partner, Fay, were working in the Top End community of Ngukurr, where they completed their training and were introduced to Aboriginal culture and remote community life.

“It felt like a big adventure”, says Mr Lomas. “The life was different yet familiar to us, because I come from a small town in New Zealand and Fay is Māori, which also has a big emphasis on family.”

Eleven years later, Frank has now seen a lot of Australia, working in at least 20 remote community stores, spanning the NT, WA, SA and most recently in Goodooga, New South Wales. No matter the location, his friendly nature and work ethic has always been appreciated by both colleagues and customers.

The length of time spent in each community varied from a few weeks or months, with the longest stretch being four years spent in Yuendumu (NT). He and Fay were there to see the construction of the new store in Yuendumu and enjoyed seeing its growth during that time.

“It’s heartening to hear that people spoke well of us in the community,” says Mr Lomas. “And they would still recognise us, even where we were working in stores thousands of miles away!”

Mr Lomas takes pride in making sure a store is presented well and is welcoming to customers. He enjoys being busy, which is why working in a remote community store suits him so well as “there’s always something happening”.

“I’ve learned more through working with Outback Stores than when I ran my own business,” he says, listing new skills from business administration, to fixing air-conditioners and ATMs, and various training certificates.

Mr Lomas says other benefits of the job are “more money, more holidays, and less stress” than when he ran his own business. After working in Australia for over eleven years, he’s now eligible for the Australian pension, has accumulated superannuation, and is currently enjoying long service leave.

He says the secret to being a good remote store manager is having a sense of humour and being willing to put in the hours, adding: “Patience, obviously, and a can-do attitude. You can do anything if you set your mind to it.”

To learn more about being a remote store manager, visit outbackstores.com.au.

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