LETTER: Mills should chill on grog in bush communities


Sir – New Chief Minister Terry Mills should cease making comments about licensed social clubs in remote communities for the time being.
He has joined the Queensland chorus about remote communities being allowed to decide about grog outlets – despite many having already chosen to be “dry” for years – and whilst his own Department of Justice is in the early stages of the first study of remote NT licensed clubs since 1998 (d’Abbs P, 1998, Out of sight, out of mind? Licensed Clubs in remote Aboriginal Communities, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health; 22 [6]:679-684).
Mr Mills is on the record on a number of occasions stating that he would act based on the evidence – yet he is not patient enough for the evidence to come in.
The Department of Justice, together with FaHCSIA, has engaged eminently qualified experts to conduct a study that includes looking at harm that may come from remote licensed clubs.
Meanwhile, the Chief Minister is spinning a “self-determination” argument to suit his own political views.
In Tuesday’s Australian newspaper he reportedly blamed the Federal Intervention for the existence of dry communities. The Intervention did not make many “wet” communities dry, other than town camps, although it did extend some “dry” areas to cover wider areas of Aboriginal land. Mr Mills is being disingenuous in his apparent eagerness to offer the option of diverting the river of grog to the bush.
The NT Government’s own website lists more than 90 communities that are grog-free because they asked to be – many since 1979 when the NT Liquor Act commenced and years before the Intervention was conceived.
It should not be the role of politicians to vociferously simplify this complex issue down to: “Do you want grog in your community?” Such a change clearly has the potential to put enormous pressure on women, kids and old people, and on schools, clinics, police and other remote services that are already under the pump and very hard to staff.
Yes, there are differing views in many bush communities about alcohol availability. But there should be no change to the restrictions set by the Licensing Commission as a result of its previous consultations unless and until, following further proper consultations, those communities clearly indicate that they have changed their position.
Although it may be discriminatory to restrict alcohol on Aboriginal communities, it is lawful and appropriate if it is a special measure.
The Australian Government’s approach to Alcohol Management Plans in the bush under Stronger Futures is more considered than Mr. Mills’ ill-informed media campaign.
Dr John Boffa
People’s Alcohol Action Coalition (PAAC)


  1. Don’t people have a right to choose? Telling them what is going to happen to protect them is patronising.

  2. Racist, discriminatory, segregationist actions regularly present as “special measures”.
    Using race as a measure IS racism, not “special measures”.
    “Special measures” for people with specific injuries do not measure them by race rather by their injuries.
    “Special measures” for people with criminal, negligent or dangerous behavior do not measure them by race rather by their behavior.
    Treat people as individuals due their actions.
    Address the individuals and their thinking which results in their behavior.
    Treating people using racial filters is racist.
    To acknowledge actions as discriminatory then argue it is lawful and appropriate as a special measure remains the apartheid and segregationist argument.
    Commonwealth remains an active racist in Australia.
    Many problems result from previous apartheid and segregationist attitudes allowed by the Commonwealth to occur.
    Continuing the apartheid, segregationist approach continues the problems.
    Commonwealth falsely claims Australians support their racist actions, repeatedly in hope we accept their racism.
    Commonwealth ignores ongoing attempts at Federation, repeated in 1967, all to prevent Commonwealth and States / Territories qualifying Australian’s rights or responsibilities using race as their measure.
    Most Australians regard a drunk as a drunk, regardless of race.

  3. Paul (Posted October 13, 2012 at 12:41 pm), we recently had a system, not race-based or segregationist, which attempted to make people more accountable for their behaviour when under the influence of alcohol, without criminalising them for simply being persistently drunk, dangerous to themselves and annoying to others.
    It was called the Banned Drinkers Register.
    It treated people as individuals, according to their actions.
    It attempted to hold people accountable for individual decision-making and actions which, while not criminal, led to self-destructive and anti-social behaviour.
    It strongly encouraged and supported those who decided to seek treatment and other help to overcome their addictions and problematic behaviours.
    Just when it was starting to become effective, with nearly 2,500 people on the Register throughout the NT, the half-smart Mr Mills abolished it without any attempt at gathering current facts about its operations or doing a proper evaluation of its merits.
    This abolition of the Register without regard for its impacts was clearly, in my view, an act of gross stupidity, cruelty and irresponsibility, for which the Mills Government must be held accountable.

  4. Paul, face the facts as they pertain to the NT, Alice Springs and the communities around it. You’re right, it is racist but that is not the problem. Grog is the problem. Unfortunately, you cannot separate race, and the grog issue in the context of the these communities, nor can it be addressed on an individual basis only, because the problem is too widespread. This needs to be addressed not only individually but by the communities as a whole as well, not decided by some white politician.

  5. As Noel Pearson advocates an inter-Aboriginal dialogue on why money for grog should be a cultural obligation, the humbug and coercion continues from Aboriginal men who demand by force if ncessary the wherewithal to feed their addiction. It hardly needs be said that domestic violence occurs in non-Indigenous homes over alcohol abuse.
    Despite some Indigenous leaders sniping at each other, a posse of informed political and health worker opinion are saying that this is not the time to be relaxing Alcohol Management Plans (AMP’s) in communities, much less introducing more Wet Canteens when women and children are just gaining some respite from decades of alcohol-fueled violence.
    The Aboriginal dialogue should be encouraged before AMP’s are tampered with, allowing a decision to come out of the communities and this will take at least twelve months.
    Perhaps, more Aboriginal voices speaking out on alcohol abuse might help Alcohol Industry supporting whitefellers unable to see that the carnage is not race-based.


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