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Community Enterprise Queensland (CEQ) has been recognised for helping to protect Indigenous communities across Cape York, the Torres Strait and on Palm Island during the COVID-19 pandemic by being first nominated and then announced the winner of the prestigious state-wide award.

The not-for-profit remote store operator was chosen as the winner of the Best response to the COVID-19 pandemic in work health and safety gong at the Queensland Government’s Safe Work and Return to Work Awards 2022, with the ceremony having taken place in Brisbane last week on 21 October.

CEQ stood out among initial judging of more than 90 organisations and individuals across Queensland to now be in the final six nominees for the category, which recognises businesses or individuals that have shown excellence and innovation in work health and safety in response to COVID-19.

During the pandemic, CEQ ensured a regular supply of high-quality goods and essential services to the Torres Strait, Northern Peninsula Area (NPA), mainland Aboriginal remote communities, and Palm Island through its 28 stores.

CEQ Chief Executive Officer Michael Dykes said it was a fantastic achievement for the organisation to be ranked in the top six organisations in Queensland for its COVID-19 response efforts.

“We’re absolutely delighted to have won this award, and it is a tribute to each and every one of our committed team members” CEQ Chief Executive Officer Michael Dykes said.

“We’ve been ranked as having the best response to the COVID-19 pandemic in work health and safety in the whole of Queensland, which is just fantastic.

“It’s a great achievement, and great acknowledgement for all the hard work put in by our people.”

At the onset of COVID, CEQ went on the front foot to ensure its supply chain was not going to be compromised, seeking alternate supply options for continuity of supply of essential services.

CEQ also collaborated with various Government agencies through the National Indigenous Food Security working group headed by the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA).

Mr Dykes said that the communities which CEQ serves continued to have access to quality goods and services throughout the COVID pandemic.

“This has been another unprecedented year with continuity of supply of essential food services to our remote communities our most significant priority,” he said.

“During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we ensured that not one of our stores ran out of core staples, including rice, pasta and toilet paper which was unavailable or in short supply in most major cities throughout Australia.

“This was a massive achievement, and I can’t thank enough the efforts of our team and local communities during the past year.

“We also reinforced the need for mask wearing and social distancing, and provided hand sanitiser in store to help protect our customers from the virus. We introduced digital message boards to ensure we could deliver the latest information to our customers and remind them of the importance of good hygiene.

“Our flexible work arrangements, innovative improvements to health and hygiene, and commitment to implement new solutions to the pandemic have all been a great success and it’s fantastic to be recognised for these achievements.”


“We demonstrated a commitment to team and customer safety throughout COVID-19, and without the controls that were implemented, the health and safety of our communities would have been compromised.”

CEQ’s Store Support Office is based in Cairns, and manages Islanders Board of Industry and Service (IBIS) and Aboriginal Business, Industry and Service (ABIS) mainland stores, as well as other stores including Col Jones and Mitre 10 on Thursday Island.

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Feature in the Cape York Weekly-Edition 106: 18th October 2022