Shoppers at Halls Creek’s only supermarket are paying 52 percent more for groceries compared with customers shopping at Kununurra’s biggest supermarket, 360km away. The Kimberley Echo has compared one local woman’s trolley of goods which cost $119.80 at Halls Creek IGA and found that the same or similar products could be purchased for $78.70 at Coles Kununurra. One product, Cheer cheese tasty block 500g cost $16.55 while the same product at Coles Kununurra cost at the time of printing $10.90. Two products, however, were cheaper at Halls Creek IGA — cut butternut pumpkin and Masterfoods Seasoning All Purpose. Halls Creek Aboriginal Corporation is now in discussions with the Shire to open a community store as locals, some of the State’s poorest people, struggle to buy food in one of WA’s most expensive towns. Corporation chair Millie Hills said prices at the IGA Halls Creek supermarket had been high for a long time but since the franchise changed ownership six months ago they had “skyrocketed like nobody’s business.” Perth-based Guru Brothers Food and Liquor Merchants which owns 15 retail businesses around the State purchased the IGA. “I shop for my family every second day just get little bits and pieces. Last night I cooked up a big stew and tonight we will have that turned into a pie. We are trying to be creative with what leftovers we have,” Ms Hills said. “I have visited a lot of families in town and they have hardly anything in the fridge. They can’t afford fresh milk they have to buy the tinned powdered milk and that’s it. “Sometimes I see families at the Poinciana Roadhouse and I think that’s the only feed they will have all day, it is so sad.” Ms Hills said they were meeting with the Shire of Halls Creek for assistance in opening a general store at the corporation’s headquarters. The community store would be for essentials only such as meat, fruit, vegetables, milk and bread. Shire CEO Phil Cassell said he believed the struggle families had to feed their children was a factor behind high levels of youth crime in the town. “They simply don’t have food they are starving,” he said. “I see people pick up basic food items look at the price and put them back on the shelf.” According to the Australia Bureau of Statistics, Halls Creek is the second most socially and economically disadvantaged town in the State after Ngaanyatjarraku in the Goldfields region. The 2021 census found the average personal income was $362 a week and it had an unemployment rate of 24.4 per cent. Despite high poverty rates Halls Creek pays some of the highest prices for food. The regional price index in 2021 found Halls Creek was the third most expensive town for everyday expenses that included food, housing, fuel, power, clothing and health. Major supermarket chain Coles has a price-match policy in which they keep the prices the same in the supermarkets throughout the State. Therefore, Coles shoppers in Kununurra will pay the same price as people in Perth despite the huge freights costs to get goods to the north of the State. A spokesperson for IGA Local Grocer Halls Creek said freight charges from Perth were huge. “It’s over a million dollars a year just in freight from Perth then there are also freight charges for stock that come across from other States,” the spokesperson said. “There is a significant amount spent on wages, providing food and accommodation for staff, as it is very hard to get staff that would come and work in these types of remote communities due to the location and the fear they have of being in these types of towns. The staff don’t just deal with verbal abuse we also have to deal with physical abuse.” Insurance rent, electricity and water were also higher than in other locations. “As we are new management to this store we are still working on the price structure of the store and we are currently working on keeping prices low every day with great weekly specials,” the spokesperson said. The supermarket also sponsors local events such as the upcoming Halls Creek Rodeo and Campdraft. They hold a community barbecue every few weeks and provide meals to the Shire for children and young people found out on the streets at night. An Alice-Springs based organisation, Mai Wiru Regional Stores, was also interested in opening a community grocer, however, despite making inquires in 2021 they have not yet lodged their proposal with the council.