HOW WE BEGAN
Mai Wiru is fully-owned and controlled by Aboriginal people, and its board includes representatives from all communities on the APY Lands.
The need for a regional stores policy on the APY Lands was first identified in the 1987 Report of Uwankara Palyanku Kanyintjaku – An Environmental and Public Health Review, and was recommended again in the Mai Wiru Nutrition Intervention at Pukatja in the early 1990’s.
In 1988 a cost of living study commissioned by Nganampa Health Council, showed that many Anangu (Aboriginal) families were without any food for up to three days per week, surviving on sugary tea and damper because they could not afford to buy sufficient food owing to income levels and systemic failures on the AY Lands.
The Mai Wiru Regional Stores Policy was developed in 2000 – 2001 as a participatory planning project carried out by Nganampa Health Council and Ngaanyatjarra Pitatjantjara Yankunytjatara Women’s Council, in conjunction with APY, and all Aboriginal Communities on the APY Lands. The Policy was signed off by all community councils and regional organisation’s in 2003.
In 2014, Mai Wiru no longer received federal funding and actively pursued growth and development to continue its charter in support of the health and wellbeing of Indigenous communities. Mai Wiru’s change of structure brought forward a new beginning and implemented many changes that allowed the organisation to remain viable and grow, despite the withdrawal of funding.
Despite numerous concerns regarding Mai Wiru’s future, the organisation made many changes in order to continue its charter. One of the major changes addressed concerns of a high cost and unreliable delivery of freighting goods to its stores from Adelaide, via Alice Springs. Through the implementation of a new supply chain, in partnership with Toll, several Mai Wiru road trains now operate from its depot in Adelaide – now providing consistent deliveries of fresher produce, and effectively allowing Mai Wiru to reduce the cost of living for all residents across the APY Lands.
Through constant monitoring and the implementation of strategies, Mai Wiru continues to have a positive impact across the APY Lands, where a healthy diet has become more affordable than an unhealthy diet, costing 15% less, and the cost of fruit and vegetables is only 5% higher than in Alice Springs.
With its achievement of remaining viable and bringing the cost of living down for the Anangu, Mai Wiru began to implement its strategic plan to address the lack of buying power with external suppliers who provided highly priced general merchandise across its stores. Mai Wiru’s Board identified the need to source alternative goods through different suppliers, who offered a variety of products at fair and reasonable prices.
In 2019 Palya Wholesalers, an Indigenous organisation based in Adelaide, entered into a joint venture with Mai Wiru, with a common mission to increase buying power and effectively reduce the cost of general merchandise across Mai Wiru’s stores. In 2021, Mai Wiru now operates Palya as its subsidiary company, and distributes over 7000 product lines across the country.