Woolworths apologises and looks to find a pathway towards reconciliation

June 9, 2021
By Ioni Doherty

Woolworths Group has released the 144 page Independent Panel Review Report into the now discontinued Dan Murphy’s development in Darwin along with the business’ reflections on that review.

In a co-signed letter to Gilbert + Tobin managing partner, Danny Gilbert who led the panel, Woolworths’ Chairman Gordon Carins and CEO Brad Banducci said:

“we clearly failed to meet our expectations and we deeply regret our insensitivity to critical stakeholders in Darwin and beyond, and our own external Indigenous Advisory Panel, whose advice we did not seek. For that, we unreservedly apologise…

“At the heart of our reflections today is strengthening our foundations for deeper, and more thoughtful and meaningful relationships with First Nations’ peoples. Relationships built on listening, learning and education. Relationships underpinned by equity and respect. Without those foundations it will not be possible for us to achieve our ambitions for full reconciliation.”

Endeavour Group CEO Steve Donohue was more expansive about the process in his response to the Panel:

“We engaged in good faith with a wide cross section of the community whose views we sought and listened to over the five‐year period of the application, and whose concerns were reflected in our developing plans. 

“We now appreciate the Darwin Dan Murphy’s development warranted a different approach…and that many stakeholders did not feel as though their concerns were considered or addressed, in our processes.”

Endeavour will take immediate steps to address concerns identified in the report including an ESG assessment on existing development proposals done with the engagement of senior management, examining the involvement of reputation and sustainability teams in development applications and ‘bridging the divide’ between Endeavour Group and public health groups, with a focus on addressing alcohol‐related harms in a more holistic manner.

Donohue identified the demerger in June as an opportunity for “the new Endeavour Group Board to consider the recommendations of the Independent Panel Review and reflect its learnings in the Endeavour Group Sustainability Plan, which will be released within our first year as a stand alone group”.

In its findings, the report said: “The socioeconomic situation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples ought to have framed and informed how Woolworths Group thought about a Dan Murphy’s development from the outset.

“More fundamentally, the company did not sufficiently explore and failed to understand how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples view alcohol and the alcohol industry. As one of the Bagot community Elders said to the Panel: ‘Why does Woolworths want to be a part of the problem?'”

Shares dropped from $43.48 down 1 per cent to $43.02 in the hour after the report was released, ahead of a shareholder meeting next week to approve the $12 billion demerger of Endeavour Group.

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