REAL AUSTRALIA

The way to a country town's heart can be through its citizens' stomachs

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It would be easy to be elected to some local councils if you stand on a platform of fighting for more fast food outlets.

It would be easy to be elected to some local councils if you stand on a platform of fighting for more fast food outlets.

There were probably fewer quiet news days than most people would expect in Katherine.

Three hours from Darwin in the mostly empty Northern Territory, with a population around 10,000, Katherine had a lot going on.

It also helped to have Australia's biggest air base at Tindal on the town's doorstep.

There was precious little in the way of any media in the NT either, so everything was pretty much fair game.

When I left the local paper there last year, it was only one of two printed newspapers remaining in the Territory.

But inevitably there were quiet times.

Some folk also believe news reporters sit about hoping some tragedy or other should befall the local populace.

A horror to sell papers or drive clicks on the website.

That wasn't the case either.

We watched our online traffic closely, all media outlets do these days, and readers were not as interested in such things as they once were.

Local rangers used to bait traps in the Katherine River to catch crocodiles.

We had a mutual pact with those rangers.

Tell us about any capture, and invite us to come and get a picture.

Croc stories always did well with our readership numbers, and the rangers were able to get their warnings out to any fools who might be considering a dip in the local waterways.

But after about the 20th capture in a year, the interest began to wane.

Our pals the rangers do too good a job at frightening locals, few actually get eaten by these monsters.

We did consider how we could tell the story differently to engage those readers, but it became hard work.

Croc stories were up the top but something was even bigger.

KFC.

Yep, Kentucky Fried Chicken.

If we had a KFC story, any sort of KFC story, it was time to celebrate and adjourn to the pub.

A KFC story would dominate our website for a week, sometimes even longer.

Katherine didn't have a KFC fast food outlet and dearly wanted one.

The locals hunger for the stuff was so great that people would travel to Coolalinga, about 30 kilometres south of Darwin, as the closest KFC to Katherine.

It was still about three hours away, that's a six hour round trip.

Sure they would fuel up on the greasy stuff while there but most times they would be working to a roster.

People would take it in turns to take the long trip up the Stuart Highway and bring back a boot-load of the stuff for their friends.

Petrol money was paid on top of the price for the food.

Your car could reek of the stuff for weeks, but it could also be quite lucrative

Katherine already had fast food.

There were the independents you'd expect, fish and chip shops, that sort of thing.

OH THE JOY: Lining up for pies at the opening of Pie Face in Katherine, NT. Picture: Lydia Lynch.

OH THE JOY: Lining up for pies at the opening of Pie Face in Katherine, NT. Picture: Lydia Lynch.

It had McDonald's, Subway (for a while), Domino's, Red Rooster, and the NT's first Pie Face outlet.

Boy, it was a big week when that opened.

United Fuel, which hosted Pie Face, sold a mammoth 2000 pies each week after it opened.

That's one for every five people living there.

They have an appetite for fast food.

This is the outback mind, not everyone is able to regularly get to the big city.

So for a quiet news day we would call KFC Australia's headquarters and ask if they had any plans to expand to Katherine.

A negative response, which they always were, was a big story.

I write this today because my home town here in Victoria is celebrating the opening of its very own Hungry Jack's store.

The local Facebook resident's page has been all abuzz for weeks.

It's given me a laugh during lockdown where food delivery services have been the busiest vehicles on the roads.

When I was running news for the paper at Swan Hill in northwest Victoria what did they want?

A two-lane bridge between Swan Hill and the Federal Hotel? Nope it was Hungry Jack's.

It was either Echuca or Mildura for them.

Even if we had a croc found in the Murray River at Swan Hill, I reckon it still would have been beaten by a Hungry Jack's announcement.

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