Judith standing in the Aurukun Op Shop.

Threads of hope

How Aurukun’s Op Shop is helping a mother support her family

Since opening in 2022, the Cape York Employment (CYE) Op Shop in Aurukun has woven itself into the fabric of the community, emerging as more than just a thrift store. 

It has now grown to the stage where it is now employing four Aurukun locals and is open to the public Mondays to Thursdays. 

Judith Ngakyunkwokka is one of the Op Shop's dedicated team members who pours their passion into this community-driven endeavour. For her, it's not just a job, but a service to their neighbours. 

“It is important for our community, the supermarket is too expensive so the community come here to buy clothes, we only charge one or two dollars,” Judith said. 

 “It isn’t just clothes. We have shoes, necklaces, bags, baby clothes and sometimes we have furniture.” 

Judith has grown quickly into the role and is now second in charge. As a mother of two children, Judith uses the money she makes to support her daughter as she pursues her education at boarding school in Cairns, looking to study law in university. 

“I like working here because I like to help with supervising and talking with people,” she said. 

Donations for the shop are primarily sourced from Cairns and meticulously sorted by the staff every Friday. With fresh shipments arriving weekly, Monday mornings are abuzz as locals flock to discover the latest additions to the shelves.

The shop not only meets the demand for low-cost clothing and household items but also provides invaluable job opportunities for residents, offering skill development in various areas, such as customer service, management and cash handling.

The four new staff are employees of Cape York Employment, hired through its Community Projects program.

Community Projects is a NIAA trial that is giving Community Development Program (CDP) providers like CYE more flexibility on how they allocate a portion of their funding. Working with jobseekers, the communities and Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership, CYE to created 44 meaningful jobs that benefit the boarder community. There is now a waiting list for locals looking to join the program.

CYE Activities Supervisor Konio Lynch said she was initially surprised at how popular the Op Shop was and how much positive feedback they were receiving. 

“We’re really looking forward to seeing this venture grow and serve the community. We see a lot of smiling faces in here and that’s a good feeling," she said.

“For a small community, we sell a lot. All the takings are then donated back to the local community in a variety of ways,”

CYE Activities Supervisor Konio Lynch

Two Aurukun Op Shop workers sorting through donations

Last year, after consultation with the Community Advisory Board, a projector, laptop and printer were purchased for the Aurukun Uniting Church. Chairman Wes Koomeeta thanked Cape York Employment for the kind donation, saying they the equipment will be put to good use and will greatly benefit the community. 

Judith’s story is just one of many success stories that have emerged out of the Community Projects program and there will be many more to come with a waiting list of locals eager and ready to become part of the program and gain meaningful and rewarding employment. 


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