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Macklin opens door to grog in Aboriginal communities, brings in 'assessors' to check pubs in Alice

UPDATED at 4.30pm on Wednesday
The Federal Government’s new Alcohol Management Plans could open doors to permitting alcohol in communities that are currently dry, while in Alice Springs “assessors” will be looking at “two licensed premises” to see whether “they are causing harm to the community”.
These initiatives were announced by Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin today and yesterday.
Police will be required to enforce the individual Alcohol Management Plans once they are put in place by communities, under a detailed protocol set down by the minister.
The initiative, part of the 10-year, $3.4 billion Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory package, reserves for the Minister the right to sign off on the plans, but is putting the final say over banning grog, or lifting the bans, into the hands of the communities.
In Central Australia most of the Aboriginal communities are currently dry.
The initiative does not rule on a floor price for alcohol, but a spokesman says it is under consideration.
It does not require the re-introduction of the banned drinkers register, abolished by the new NT Government. The onus is on the Territory government, says Ms Macklin, to bring back the register.
She says she had asked the NT Government to support her proposal for assessors to look at the licensing and business practices of two  venues not named in her media release, but tipped to be the venues known as the animal bars: “However, if the NT Government is unwilling to meet their responsibilities, the Australian Government is prepared to meet ours.”
Ms Macklin says the Australian Government is investing more than $1.8 million to enable the local BushMob rehabilitation service to relocate and expand its facility which delivers round-the-clock care, as well as education and counselling to help overcome alcohol, petrol-sniffing and substance abuse.
The funds will lift the service’s capacity from five to 20 beds.
Meanwhile “vital community infrastructure” will be upgraded in the Utopia homelands in the with a $4.36m expenditure, as well as $4m for the Centre for Appropriate Technology “to deliver a range of projects to help families in Utopia live more sustainably”.
Ms Macklin says: “These will include critical work to make housing safer, helping residents to reduce their energy consumption and improving the safety and reliability of the local water supply.”
Utopia will be benefitting from a range of other measures:-
• A police station at Arlparra, staffed as part of the additional 60 officers funded through Stronger Futures;
• A night patrol service operating from Arlparra;
• A primary health care service operated by Urapuntja Health Service;
• Increased food security through a licensed community store at Arlparra; and
• The continued provision of municipal and essential services across the homelands.
Ms Macklin is pictured in Alice Springs today with Rosalie Kunoth Monks at the Centre for Appropriate Technology after announcing a the Utopia initiatives.


  1. Around 1992 I saw first hand at Peperminati (not sure about the spelling) a well organised, functional wet canteen where mainly men went to drink and hopefully learn to drink responsibly; learn that you can enjoy a drink without getting drunk.
    At the time the community was run by a strict elder whose name I think was Harry Wilson. Unfortunately, to run the show properly he had to break a few laws eg, he’d withhold Centrelink payments (by cheque then) pending the recipient having done some work around the community … like an ex-officio CDEP.
    I think it’s worth a try. The type of booze available could be controlled as could the quantity, but some of the work will need to be done by someone else as they are not police work.

  2. Thirty years ago I spent several months relieving as store manager on a central Australian indigenous community. During the time I was there an accountant arrived to carry out the annual audit. This seemed to go OK, but to be honest it was all a bit beyond me, and I didn’t spend too much time thinking about it.
    But in answer to my question, he said that the only store, or store function, he had ever audited where the figures exactly tallied was the limited beer – I think it was a six-pack a day – sold to workers on a different community.
    There will be predictable, and not entirely unfounded, worries expressed over just how bad this initiative could go. I share those worries, but I also see the devastation wrought in the urban centres by drinkers coming to town because they are not allowed to drink, and to thereby learn how to drink moderately, at home.
    I also think it’s time to stop being so insufferably patronising toward the Australians who live on remote communities. Which is not to say we should just open the tap. But let’s give it a go. It cannot be worse than the system we now have, and it might just work.
    It would also remove the inherent dishonesty in talking dry while drinking wet.
    I do question if the Federal Government want to let this initiative be run from Darwin. They, the NT Government, seem to be astonishingly incompetent, and I fear if left to them, it will go south in a hurry.

  3. The Feds just come in cashed up and try to buy solutions. Throw money at the problem and it will fix itself … WRONG … Money is needed to find solutions but you need to put it in the hands of a government department that is accountable not to NGOs, Land Councils or specific Aboriginal groups. Taxpayer monies need to be protected from the rort that has continued and continues. The amount of monies that disappeared in admin charges during SHIP, Territory alliance OMG. But here is Jenny, throwing it in the big hole in the ground that has swallowed up 100s of millions of dollars over the years. Clearly our Federal elected pollies are not to bright. Is Jenny Mac just blind or really just does not give a s**t. We in the Territory are now under more financial pressure with the increase in power and water charges and she paid $4 million to assist in helping people in Utopia live more sustainably. That $4m would assist all Territorians so we did not have to have the price hike in January.
    PAWA would use that money to improve their systems and not destroy lives in the Territory by killing or removing the cash cows.
    The only time we are seen as people is in election time and they need our votes. The rest of the time they are standing over us with electric prods forcing us to go where they want us. If the Feds are going to spend big dollars in the Territory spend it in areas to help all Territorians not just a 100 or so.

  4. Weird one Janet (Posted February 28, 2013 at 8:55 am). So people living in large family groups on their traditional lands at Utopia don’t deserve to get access to reliable water supplies?
    Do you also object to Terry paying his mates several thousand dollars each per week to devise increases to our power / water charges and ways to wreck services for children and youth?

  5. I’m sorry Bob, the CLP has been elected into government and what they found is PAWA debt of excess of $5 billion dollars for a population of 210,000 people. A public service that ballooned the cost to Territorians with pay packets to 100’s over $150,000.00 plus perks. A socialist government that did not even budget for the 800+ FACS workers it employed on top of those already in the job and still could not fix the problems. If you do your maths of the 210K people in the territory 1/3 employed in private enterprise 1/3 in public service and the other 1/3 children and unemployed and retired. Not an exact figure but close enough to display to everyone that there was something rotten in the Labor Party.
    And you are a big part of that party. So tell us all BOB your desire to assist the entire territory and promote us as an opportunity to the rest of Australia as an economic hub. Tony sees the opportunities. We need to pay off the debt from your mob and we cannot do it the way we currently stand in population. We need to open doors to economic funding to assist us in our way out of this mess. And if that means sharing the money in all areas then that is what it means. This is after all the Territory. And if the land is theirs do what station owners have to pay. Pay for it themselves.

  6. Janet Brown you need to go out to Utopia and see the people and services or lack of services being delivered before you start writing.
    This particular area has never been serviced by both parties for years, it is pretty neglected. There are people out there, yes Janet, human beings would you believe, who vote and have a right to services just like everyone in the Territory.
    To help solve a problem, people must have a bit of understanding how the problem came about.
    What is clear, is that some people (JB) can’t assist in solving the problem as it is clear that some (JB) do not have an understanding of how the problem came about.

  7. Experience shows that Janet Brown can be careless with facts and figures, we should careful how much credence we give to her posts. I don’t think she has got back to us readers of the Alice News forum on the Australia wide takeover of the IGA store group by Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation, paid for with millions of taxpayers dollars. Evidence for this please, Janet? Or a retraction? Or will you just move on to the next glib assertion?

  8. Utopia, the horror story. The story begins with the purchase of the cattle station for an Aboriginal group which failed to continue on the work on one of the NT’s best cattle stations. For lifestyle and income.
    They then moved family groups in all directions and the government paid for housing, schools, power, water, sewage.
    How many millions or billions has been spent in this one area? An area full of welfare recipients. On land that is not government land.
    Not Crown land. So why is taxpayers’ money being squandered yet again?
    Let all the outstations move back to the central hub there. Where services are. If people chose to live on an outstation why is that at the tax payer’s cost?
    Taxpayers have paid for whimsical decisions of walkabout. It has to stop.
    Michael, read up the true story and beginning of Utopia. And in reply to human beings. Unlike the government that wants to keep Aboriginals as some museum piece and promoted segregation and apartheid in Australia. I want to see equality.
    Land councils not to own everything and have governance over royalty monies.
    I want traditional owners to own outright lands in their names. Communities where people own their house.
    Where jobs are real and not CDEP. Where people work and live with futures and goals. Where hopelessness is replaced by independence.
    Where people can make their own decisions about their communities. Self worth comes from self respect. Sounds like a utopian dream.
    A reminder of reality. Dictatorships keep people in the dirt savaging for existence. Or in isolated places.
    True democracy allows growth by private sector to encourage growth.
    The Territory has been under a dictatorship. For a very long time.
    And that dictatorship comes from the same place as all dictatorships those at the top of government departments. Not elected members.
    We just vote in too many weak links. That do not allow the strong to stand up and take control.
    If the country is to overthrow the dictatorship we need strong people putting themselves in the next election.
    To take back control of our country. And yes Michael. That includes us all. No forms of segregation has ever had my support.
    I am always fighting against it and always will.

  9. Oops! Guilty of using slang again or so my husband says. By dictatorship I mean non democratic decision making by an academic paternalistic bunch of bureaucrats who make their living off continuing aboriginal misery, the welfare dollar, and who actively work at creating and continuing segregation with that outcome in mind.
    There, Steve will be happy with me (and to add I know personally some amazing people in top government positions and they work very hard). But in the social areas there needs to be a clean up and clearing out. Of those who actively work against a democratic outcome.

  10. Ian you jump into every story with this obsession of the IGA stores. What is wrong I am right on the target with my comments and that is why you bring this IGA thing with you as you have nothing else to say. Fine but it is okay I don’t have a glass jaw and like everyone else I do make mistakes and I will graciously except a slap on the wrist for being a little cheeky. Ouch!!

  11. Janet, you are confusing us (Posted March 5, 2013 at 8:03 am). Are you, or are you not, admitting that you were incorrect when you stated that the Alice Springs native title holders’ company owned IGAs all around Australia?

  12. Janet, a little cheeky?
    “This same group (LAAC) owns nearly all IGA stores Australia wide. And all funded it seems by Australian government funds. Our tax payer dollars. So the question is how much funding from the tax payers purse how much land that belongs to all Australians is going to be given away to Aboriginal [interests] when we see here and so many other places human suffering and homelessness. If the stats were counted it would appear to be in the order of millions per year to everyone stating Aboriginality. So why is there still a problem on the streets? Time for accountability?”
    Time for accountability indeed. More than a little cheeky I think, but I also think Janet is owning up to the error. If so, good, let’s move on.

  13. A bit late again on the conversation! I thought it was about Alcohol Management Plans so I started reading. Anyway I for one hope the AMPs actually turn into what the tag implies – Alcohol Management Plans. I had some involvement with them and at the early stages of their development some communities wanted access to alcohol and some didn’t. Most men wanted access to alcohol and most women didn’t.
    But it frustrated me that again Aboriginal people were treated as the same beings with similar beliefs and values and goals and therefore all had to be the same.
    They couldn’t have alcohol access over here and no alcohol access there. They all needed signs to tell them what to do etc.
    Some wanted wet canteens some didn’t … but all sober and sensible people I spoke to (and they were the vast majority) seemed to want protection of children and women and safety for those who didn’t drink.
    Anyway my point is resourcing communities with the ability to develop and manage their own AMPs is worth an attempt. Surely things can’t get worse as a result if moderation is promoted, education on alcohol abuse is promoted and improved service to address associated problems are placed on communities.
    I know there are a multitude of issues related to this but clearly the current system is not working for the majority of communities and many others are not responding well.
    So a balance is required – a true Alcohol Management Plan for each individual community is needed.
    And on another point, ignoring some parts of Janet’s arguments she does have a few points I think we all agree on … economic independence, enterprise development, traditional owners actually having individual rights to property on their communal lands (I think that’s what she means). And another point … being an (Aboriginal) academic with paternalistic tendencies is not a sin, I don’t think. It is something to aspire to and is of value to the whole Australian community.

  14. @ Charlie the last part of your comment is completely at odds with the rest of your comment, making your own decisions determining your own future deciding weather to drink or not to drink are completely at odds with Paternalism that has the clear intent here, of being paternalistic.
    A paternalistic society makes all those decisions for you, because they smugly consider themselves to be vastly superior to those whom they observe with cool detachment and consider, [in the nicest way of course], the observed inferior souls to be less than capable of making their own decisions, for all very soundly argued reasons, mostly revolving around perpetual victimhood.
    Paternalism is by far and away the most insidious and destructive form that racism takes! It is the root cause of all the issues we face most especially those revolving around alcohol! It steals away a person right to self worth,the right to be seen as, and the right to consider themselves as, a functioning living breathing life amongst equals!
    So Yeh, lets go all out for supporting Education and equality of decision making, but lets consign the Paternalistic overlording to a hell from which it most certainly came.

  15. Steve Brown @ March 10. Steve, I would really like to understand your argument about paternalism, but either one of us doesn’t seem to be expressing themselves well enough, or it’s still contentious.
    In my last post, I asked you why it was that Aboriginal people were disproportionately reflected in social indicators of disadvantage and how your argument about paternalism having caused that worked.
    You haven’t replied.
    If we take alcohol abuse for example, why is it that Aboriginal people are represented in alcohol-related issues in the hospitals and prisons that non-Aboriginals?
    Are you saying that our present alcohol-supply laws are paternalistic or what is it that causes them to be so highly represented in your opinion?
    I believe that our present alcohol supply laws are the cause of a constant over-supply of the product that, together with a forty-year period of such supply in the NT, overcrowded housing and lack of confidence in the employment market because of education and English proficiency and systematic racism have put many Aboriginal people at a disadvantage from which they are conditioned generationally to alcoholism as a means of coping with what is a pretty hard life, more often filled with family loss and varying levels of despair.
    I’m not sure if this makes me a bleeding heart paternalist, but I believe that I’m related to my fellow man and, tough love or not, feel some responsibility towards doing something to help, even if I am abused, ripped-off or thanked which is sometimes the case.
    Having been in that situation a few times in my life, I am thankful for the good Samaritans that stopped to help me, but I’m digressing.
    I understand some of the magnitude of the problem caused by alcohol abuse in the NT, but I believe in a reduction in the supply of alcohol by instilling a floor price, a moratorium on take-away sales on a Sunday and re-instating the BDR so that the justice system can move forward on the backlog of cases now piling up again since its removal. I am not convinced of arguments so far presented that any of these three can not work in favour of our problem.
    I would appreciate it if you could attempt to explain your argument and answer some of these questions without accusation.
    I realise that I make myself vulnerable to greater minds than mine by being simplistic, but some of us would like to deconstruct the complex more fully, so that we can begin to see how the present alcoholism mass can be rehabilitated. As I understand it, the NTG’s $400m projected cost of mandatory facilities is in limbo. Maybe, you have an answer.

  16. Alcohol Management Plans for each individual community are NOT needed.
    Targeting entire populations – rather than offenders, in communities created current problems.
    Needed is more support for judicial processing of alcohol related charges concerning those individuals behaving unacceptably.
    Those so behaving to draw police attention whilst intoxicated may face alcohol restrictions on their bail orders.
    Court attention may result in varied bail conditions, court orders for good behavior, or time in prison, with orders parole conditions include intoxication avoidance.
    Magistrates, judges in courts regularly hear submissions from parties, then decide what is to be done.
    Those accused of supplying alcohol to persons banned by court orders need convince courts not to punish them.
    Magistrates and judges in courts may also in judgements comment where they believe improvements in legislation need be considered.
    Where very serious, with long term prison the accused may opt for a jury.
    Despite development over centuries, courts fail occasionally, yet they remain best option we have.

  17. I am so over these arguments over alcohol restrictions and the hand wringing associated with what to do – the calls for more money etc.
    The most successful program for people with alcohol problems has been Alcoholics Anonymous, and the first rule with AA is that you cannot help someone who doesn’t want to help themselves … perhaps it is time that we allowed people to take responsibility for their own issues.
    What we as a community don’t need is more public servants (that is any tax payer funded position) to tell people how to live their lives.


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