Booze battle NGO: Talks about our role haven't even started yet


Its role in mandatory rehabilitation of drunks is still “very early in the discussion” with the NT Government, according to acting CEO of the Central Australian Aboriginal Alcohol Programmes Unit (CAAAPU), Cameron McGill.
“To be up front about it, we haven’t even had those discussions as yet with the NT Government,” he said this morning. “We’re not even at that stage of consultation.”
The NT Government has announced it will not be building its own mandatory rehabilitation facilities, which was a key promise ahead of the elections on August last year, but will shift the task mostly to non-government organisations.
A media release put out this afternoon by Alcohol Rehabilitation Minister Robyn Lambley quotes CAAAPU chief executive, Philip Allnutt, as saying an initial 25 bed pilot program should be conducted “with comprehensive evaluation before expanding to further beds.”
Mr Allnutt is also quoted as saying that “adequate after care” for clients is important. After care is also the focus of comments made by Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory CEO, John Paterson: “What happens to people after their 12 weeks inside, when all the evidence tells us that 12 weeks is nowhere near enough to effect long term change?”
CAAAPU (pictured), in Ragonesi Road just south of The Gap, currently has room for 29 “clients” and the annual budget is $2.8m, about 60% from Canberra and the rest from NT Government programs. Its programs are limited to two months.
CAAAPU (unlike AMSANT) has a policy in support of mandatory rehabilitation, as it is supportive of “any program that helps Aborigjnal people,” says Mr McGill.
“We are every much a neutral party in terms of policies and discussion around alcohol misuse in Alice Springs.
“We’re an on the ground, helping people type of organisation.”
NEWS: Would CAAAPU have the facilities to confine people against their will if referred by a court or a government instrumentality, would it have the fences and the guards to stop them from escaping?
McGILL: We do have clients referred to us from the justice system, and they stay with us for up to eight weeks.
NEWS: There have been suggestions in the past that people come and go as they please, and alcohol is being passed though holes in the fence. Is this so?
McGILL: I cannot comment about the past but since the advent of our new CEO, Philip Allnutt, and change of guard in our board and governance, the processes in CAAAPU have tightened up significantly to what it was three to four years ago.
NEWS: Are you now capable of confining people against their will?
McGILL: Initially CAAAPU has been about self-referral. The move into mandatory rehabilitation is something new. As I said, it’s in the very early stages of negotiation and discussion, how it’s going to work and the whole implementation of it.
Mr McGill says the present capacity is 20 men, soon to be 26, and nine women and their children. Most of the self referral clients stay for the full eight weeks program. Those referred by the justice system “have to stay the whole eight weeks”. The occupancy rate on average is 70% to 90%, he says.
NEWS: Are there people who sneak out prematurely?
McGILL: If there is any absconding at all, they go straight back to Corrections, it becomes a Corrections issue then. At the moment our absconding rate is extremely low.
NEWS: What is the recidivism rate?
McGILL: If we can help a person who wants to come back to CAAAPU then we will.


  1. She came from somewhere south of the Inland Sea on a regular salary.
    One night in a one-horse town when the juke-box swung, he was swaying alone. The white girl moved in closer and danced with him, but it was only a fantasy.
    Outside, under the moon, the desert was dry for want of rain.
    In a cell, Baby, the alcoholic stockmen lay stricken. His wife and kids got used to him doing mandatory.
    On the highway north, the train whistle blew and that white boy wished he was black.

  2. According to some reports, there were 2500 individuals named on the Banned Drinkers Register when it was scrapped.
    This will now be replaced by a program of mandatory detention offering beds to 140 individuals.
    Twenty of those beds will be in Alice Springs, and I have no doubt that I could fill them all after a normal weekend session here on Walmulla St.
    Could the CLP be offering a modern remix of the loaves and fishes?

  3. Might one of the pilot programs be conducted out in one of the “developing” communities?
    Being further away from alcohol supplies may assist.

  4. High time the Minister and her advisers had a reality check. First they should remember the old adage “you can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink”.
    Second, world wide research clearly demonstrates that forced mandatory rehab does not work.
    And Minister, stop claiming that the CLP has come up with an Australian first. Most States had some type of Inebriates Act in place up until the early 1970s where a Court would mandate an alcoholic to twelve months mandatory detained rehab – great holiday with very little outcome and eventually most of the Legislation was repealed.
    It is a medical fact that repeated excess alcohol consumption by an individual over an extended period of time results in brain damage as well as other clinical effects on the body. Waste of time trying to rehabilitate anyone with brain damage even if it is minor.
    The CLP should look closely at the components of the Australian Government Harm Minimisation Strategy that has been adopted by all States: Supply Reduction is one of the major components. In other words, restrict access by doing things like introducing a floor price on cheap alcohol, reduce the number of liquor outlets and reduce the hours of trading.
    The CLP has refused, so how about they declare just how much the Liquor Industry contributes to the Party Coffers. A major conflict of interest. The elected Government is not representing the voters. It is looking after the interests of the Liquor Industry who have a vested interest in spreading grog throughout the community in order to improve their own bottom line.

  5. It has been speculated in other places that the three main contributors to our major political parties today are property developers, the gaming industry and the liquor industry. If this is true, and I suspect it is at least arguably so, then it’s easy to imagine just how threatened the liquor industry was by the BRD.
    Already in the NT about 2500 individuals had been banned from buying alcohol products. This number would have probably grown before stabilising. If its effectiveness had been recognised throughout Australia, and a similar program adopted in other states and the ACT, imagine for a moment how many individuals could have been banned and their custom lost.
    OF COURSE the alcohol industry would have wanted this perceived threat off the books. Their business is selling alcohol, and it doesn’t matter to them if they sell alcopops to teenagers or cheap plonk to alcoholics. It’s all business, and business is booming.


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