Aboriginal peak organisations warn governments against allowing more grog on remote communities


The Great Alcohol Debate: bring back BDR or similar, they say 
Aboriginal peak organisations of the Northern Territory have called on governments to “base alcohol policy on evidence not politics” and to “bring back a system (such as the Banned Drinkers Register [BDR]) to restrict the supply of alcohol to problem drinkers without resorting to criminalisation”. They have pleaded with governments “to heed our warnings about the risks of allowing more alcohol to flow into remote communities”.
The organisations involved in the alcohol policy summit in Darwin, held last Friday, included Anyinginyi Health Service, East Arnhem night patrol, Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, CAAAPU, CAAPS (Council for Aboriginal Alcohol Program Services Incorporated), and SAF,T (Strong Aboriginal Families, Together). Also attending were representatives from Borroloola, Tiwi Islands, Ntaria, Beswick, Bagot community, Jilkminggan and Katherine. There was also a presentation from representatives from Fitzroy Crossing, a community severely impacted by excessive drinking, with alarmingly high rates of children being born with foetal alcohol syndrome.
Expert speakers at the summit included Professor Peter d’Abbs from Menzies School of Health Research; Associate Professor, Ted Wilkes from the National Indigenous Drug & Alcohol Committee; Professor Dennis Gray from the National Drug Research Institute; David Templeman, CEO of the Alcohol & Other Drugs Council of Australia; Donna Ah Chee, Acting CEO of Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, Doctor John Boffa, Central Australian Aboriginal Congress; Russell Goldflam, People’s Alcohol Action Coalition; and Michael O’Donnell, Chair of the NT Alcohol and Other Drugs Tribunal.
The peak organisations issued a communique, as follows:
We ask for all levels of government to heed our warnings about the risks of allowing more alcohol to flow into remote communities.
The key messages delivered throughout the summit, included:
• That NT has unacceptably high rates of alcohol related harm.
• Aboriginal people in the NT have a long history of fighting for alcohol restrictions right across the NT and we are now at a critical point in this journey.
• Aboriginal families are most affected by the destructive impacts of alcohol, including domestic violence, suicide, and removal of children from their families in high levels.
• Aboriginal people need to secure our future and our culture by keeping our children safe, healthy and strong.
• Evidence shows that Aboriginal people must be in control of developing and implementing strategies to tackle alcohol issues and associated problems for them to be effective.
• Alcohol restrictions can provide necessary breathing space for Aboriginal communities, but are only one part of the solution.
Aboriginal participants made a number of key resolutions about action to be taken in their communities:
• To promote truthful and productive conversations about alcohol within our own communities;
• To draw strength from our successes;
• To draw strength from the importance of spirituality and culture;
• To ensure our communities get access to relevant data and evidence regarding alcohol impacts and policies;
• To ensure that community consultation processes are not dominated by drinkers but give voice to women, non-drinkers, elders and particularly children; and
• To take harm reduction as the key principle guiding alcohol policy.
Aboriginal summit participants called on both levels of Government to:
• Involve our people in all levels of decision-making regarding alcohol policy, program development and resourcing in the NT;
• Acknowledge that our people live in two worlds – one of traditional culture and another of contemporary society;
• Acknowledge that our people must be supported to develop solutions to tackle issues around alcohol related harm;
• Empower our people to resolve their own disputes and conflicts;
• Acknowledge the importance of our spirituality and culture in healing alcohol-related harm;
• Base alcohol policy on evidence not politics;
• Ensure that Police work with communities and develop strategies to ensure better relationships with Aboriginal people rather than engaging simply in law enforcement;
• Ensure community-specific cross-cultural training for non-Aboriginal staff, including nurses, doctors, teachers, and police officers;
• Complete the current study into on licensed clubs before considering further policy reform;
• Bring back a system (such as the Banned Drinkers Register) to restrict the supply of alcohol to problem drinkers without resorting to criminalisation;
• Implement population level supply reduction measures as a ‘circuit breaker’ for problems in our communities;
• Provide significant new resources into early childhood programs as an absolute priority;
• Expand government support for community-based recovery strategies, similar to strategies used in Fitzroy Crossing; and
• Expand and invest in existing rehabilitation programs and infrastructure before considering new options.
The outcomes of the summit will be followed up with Government through nominated delegates.


  1. I can’t understand why they think selling grog is ok to do in Alice Springs but not in their own communities. I suppose it keeps all the drunks in town and away from their land. I’d like to see them go back to their own land, and let them decide when and who to sell alcohol to. It would certainly improve the look of Alice Springs in no time, and leave the Police to work for our community in keeping us safe instead of spending 85% of their time picking up drunks.

  2. FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders) is the largest cause of non-genetic, at-birth brain damage in Australia.
    The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs conducted an inquiry into FASD. The report of the inquiry – FASD: The Hidden Harm – was tabled in parliament today.
    The Committee made 19 recommendations directed at the Commonwealth Government, outlining a national strategy to prevent, identify and manage FASD in Australia. The recommendations include:
    The actions set out in this report should constitute the Commonwealth Government’s National Plan of Action for the prevention, diagnosis and management of FASD.
    The establishment of an ongoing FASD Reference Group reporting to the relevant Commonwealth Government Ministers.
    Ensure that all health professionals are fully aware of the NHMRC guidelines that advise women not to drink while pregnant and trained in discussing the guidelines with women.
    Implement a general public awareness campaign which promotes not drinking alcohol when pregnant or when planning a pregnancy as the safest option.
    Specific awareness campaigns should be developed to target youth and Indigenous communities.
    Include health warning labels for alcoholic beverages, including a warning label that advises women not to drink when pregnant or when planning a pregnancy, on the Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation’s December agenda.
    Commission an independent study into the impacts of the pricing and availability of alcohol.
    Commission an independent study into the impacts and appropriateness of current alcohol marketing strategies directed to young people.
    Expedite the rollout of the FASD diagnostic instrument and the development of a training and user manual.


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