Feds support alcohol mandatory treatment


Sir – The Northern Territory Government has welcomed Federal Community Services Minister Jenny Macklin’s support for welfare quarantining measures to apply to problem drinkers placed into Alcohol Mandatory Treatment.
The Commonwealth’s in-principle support for welfare quarantining is a welcome boost to the program and shows the Territory and Federal governments are on the same page when treating problem drunks.
Up to 800 problem drinkers every year will be required to undertake alcohol rehabilitation across the Northern Territory. Problem drinkers placed in Protective Custody three times in two months face up to 12 weeks in treatment.
Without welfare quarantining, problem drinkers would have quite literally had a slush fund of welfare money to spend on grog at the conclusion of the 12 week program.
The Territory Government is investing $45 million into Alcohol Mandatory Treatment this year and more than $100 million over the next three years.
Robyn Lambley (pictured)
NT Health Minister


  1. This letter omits the fact that several concessions were obtained by the Federal Government in exchange for agreeing to Income Management as the key to the NTG’s Alcohol Mandatory Treatment (AMT) going ahead.
    One of these is allowing independent assessors into Alice Springs licensed premises to gauge any level of harm to the community in the way that they conduct the business of selling alcohol.
    There are many social problems in Central Australia as the cultures attempt “two-way” accommodation and as the widow of Mr Yunupingu said at his funeral attended by several Ministers of the Crown, this has been less than successful, at least in Education.
    Liberal alcohol supply is one of the biggest factors in preventing many of the problems facing Aboriginal people to be seen for what they are and resolved. The NTG had to be dragged screaming to the independent assessment proposal.
    It would be encouraging to be able to read more accountable and bipartisan press releases in the future, so that we might have more confidence in how our millions of taxpayers dollars are being spent by politicians, either removing or adding to some of the so-called intractable social problems we face in the NT.

  2. Who will look after the children of the drinkers whilst the drinkers are in treatment? Do they become wards of the state for that period? Will they go into care? Has there been more support provided to children’s services to support them? Has any thought been given to how this may impact upon them?

  3. Mike (Posted July 4, 2013 at 9:40 am): the kinds of drinkers who are most likely to be picked up several times in a short period by police dragnets, and referred by them to treatment, are those who annoy them (and many others) most regularly. A lot of these people started neglecting their kids so long ago that it is no longer an issue: their kids are generally in the care of more responsible others already.
    This is part of the problem with the proposed system, that the people making things bad for their kids/wives etc now are not necessarily going to be in the sights of this system; whereas they often did come to the attention of the AOD tribunal and were put on the BDR, providing some degree of relief to the vulnerable persons who were oppressed by the behaviour of many binge drinkers.
    Seldom has the adage been more relevant: Prevention is better than cure …
    Still, your point about providing for the children of some of those sent to treatment is a valid issue. There has been some criticism already of Elferink and Lambley for their proposal to glean $175 per week (I think) off the mandated clients, to help defray the costs of being in a treatment centre.
    If they are paying rent on a family home, who then will cover the rent and other bills which they normally cover for their family if their income is being garnisheed to pay for the treatment? This could be a significant problem for the service providers, and a factor in people going AWOL.


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