The evidence to deal with booze abuse


Sir – We congratulate the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs on the final report of its inquiry into the harmful use of alcohol by Aboriginal communities.
Chair Dr. Sharman Stone, Deputy Chair Warren Snowdon and their parliamentary colleagues have made a thorough examination of the issues, including evidence-based practice, availability, pricing and taxation, and the role of the liquor retail industry.
The report makes 23 comprehensive recommendations, including:-
• the introduction of a national minimum floor price on alcohol;
• prompt consideration of the Henry review’s recommendations on alcohol taxation;
• the return of the Banned Drinkers’ Register and comprehensive data collection and evaluation in the NT;
• banning alcohol sponsorship and of sporting teams and events and banning alcohol advertising at times that may influence children;
• the re-establishment of the National Indigenous Drug and Alcohol Committee;
• a formal recognition by COAG of the social determinants of the harmful use of alcohol;
• the States and Territories to examine and move towards a risk-based liquor licensing system such as that operating in New South Wales; and
• the acceptance of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome as a disability for social security payment purposes.
Of course what we need now is for the Federal, Territory and State Governments to do their bit and ensure that these excellent recommendations delaying with supply, demand and harm reduction are implemented in order to address the damage done to Aboriginal people – and the general population – by our most abused legal drug.
Dr. John Boffa (pictured)

People’s Alcohol Action Coalition (PAAC)


  1. The 2:30pm grog run in to the town camps are now a thing of the past.
    All children have the right to feel safe and to get a good education.
    Children cannot protect themselves from violence, abuse and neglect.

  2. More patronizing token garbage from Dr Boffa, as always directed at Aboriginal People!
    Zero regard for the fact that problem drinkers of all ethnicity acquire alcohol no matter how expensive, legal or illegal, just like any other drug user.
    For them price and tax is irrelevant! Higher taxes and minimum prices simply take money from those who are already doing the right thing, eating into their budgets, punishing them for the sins of others.
    Dr Boffa and his ideas were given far too much credibility under the previous Labor Government. Let’s never forget the absolute mayhem they presided over!
    Like or dislike the CLP government, they have had huge success in reducing the level of crime and anti-social behavior relating to alcohol abuse in our town!
    Why on earth would we want to go backwards to a regime that proved such a disastrous failure!
    Our town and particularly its tourist industry are only just showing signs of recovery from that disastrous period.
    Let’s not go back there!
    A healthy community requires a measured balanced approach to alcohol, one that recognizes both the harms and the very important social role it plays in our community.
    Alcohol issues are best dealt with by a well balanced “living with Alcohol approach” not by a lopsided bunch of wowsers who continue to foster division and anger in our community by singling out and patronizing residents of Aboriginal background.
    Thanks but no thanks, Dr Boffa, the Alice Springs community has seen quite enough of your brand of medicine!
    We prefer the quiet life!

  3. Steve Brown is one of those who stood by during the 40 years it took for takeaway alcohol outlets to gain cultural supremacy in Alice Springs.
    He either did nothing about it, failed to see its social consequence or encouraged it.
    Most of these years were under the jurisprudence of the CLP.
    In 1986, Justice Muirhead complained about the glass flagon as a weapon of destruction. These takeaway items were responsible for the shards that I witnessed countless times being used to stab people to death, before they were replaced.
    Steve Brown is deluded if he thinks his opinion as expressed here can be separated from his role of Town Councillor. He represents a voice for maintaining the status quo.
    Even on the Sunrise TV program this morning, Caterina Giorgi, Policy Analyst for the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) was interviewed about the rising statistic of women (neither defined as indigenous or other Australian) presenting in emergency departments with diseases such as cirrhosis and alcohol-attributed cancers in what she described as the Australian alcohol culture.
    From memory, I believe she mentioned a 40% increase and one in four drinking to excess.
    This is the thrust of the Senate Committee’s report and to what Dr Boffa infers as unacceptably laissez faire government policy.
    I receive PAAC emails on alcohol-related issues nationwide and through long association with the NT have had to ask Dr Boffa about the cause of death to several friends who were unable to moderate their alcohol consumption.
    I would rather take his medicine that the uninformed and constantly vitriolic denial espoused by Steve Brown on matters of life and death in our communities.
    This is the culture Mr Brown blithely says has a “very important role.”

  4. I have seen the suffering and unnecessary pain that alcohol has done to people in Central Australia, in remote communities, town camps and urban places.
    I have lost half of my family to alcohol fueled violence and alcohol abuse.
    Alcohol and drugs don’t discriminate against race, sex, rich or poor and age.

  5. Ah, for a while there I had forgotten about the sound made by an empty vessel! Then Steve Brown piped up and reminded me exactly what it sounds like! (Posted June 27, 2015 at 5:03 pm).
    On the one hand, Steve! thinks that “Alcohol issues are best dealt with by a well balanced “living with Alcohol approach”! Not by a lopsided bunch of wowsers! Who continue to foster! Division and anger in our community! By singling out and patronizing residents of Aboriginal background!”!
    On the other hand, Steve backs the policy that relies solely on use of police outside outlets at Temporary Beat Locations (TBLs) to target Aboriginal drinkers.
    Go figure!!

  6. I’ve thought the proactive approach of the police at the bottle shops etc has been a great success, going by how the town has been. I have had visitors who have been here before who have (although warily at first) returned and have noticed the difference to the town’s anti social problems.
    If this is working as well as it seems to be how can people say it’s too expensive or racial? Whatever it is, it is working if our visitors are noticing.
    Now, if we can only get the government and judges to make some of the hard decisions and simple reinstatement of programmes that were working for youth, and show the juvenile offenders that they mean business as well.
    We seem to just make headway on one problem only to lose the ball on other problems.

  7. @ Tracie.
    Can I recommend you Google People’s Alcohol Action Coalition Alice Springs (PAAC) and subscribe to the information feed of alcohol-related stories nationally and occasionally, internationally?
    There’s a lot more to this than simply stationing police on temporary (?) beat locations (TBLs) outside the takeaway bottle shops to satisfy visitor expectations.
    There were six more licence applications late last year, so potentially, that’s six more beats to cover.
    They have been successful, but they are not without issues and certainly no long-term solution. The Sharman Report recommends adding the Banned Drinkers Register to the mix, along with increasing the price of alcohol (the Defence Department has just done this on its Bases) and you seem to have missed the general Australian drinking culture which is in need of reining in for a number of obvious reasons (see above).
    The idea is to reduce supply and monitor existing demand and publish that information in the way that the WA Commissioner is showing leadership (see West Australian 29/5/15).
    Keep tweaking this issue and other social issues, as you say, may improve.

  8. During the time of the BDR I witnessed the abuse of decent and elderly people being forced to buy grog for those on the BDR.
    For every action there is a reaction. Since the removal of the BDR those people are safe except they are still harassed for money.
    The issue of abuse should be high on the list of priorities. Alcohol is the result of poor and ineffective policies.
    And top of that list are the Aboriginal agencies that ensure the plight of hopelessness in the Aboriginal world.
    We all know that self help is the best cure to lost objectives.
    The helping hand has not been giving a hand up to these people – it has and continues to be on their heads keeping them in place so that funding can be obtained.
    Proof of this is clear: All those billions of dollars and the problems grow, not shrink. Proof is in the outcomes.
    Dr Boffa continues to ensure growth of poverty and drug and alcohol abuse. All these years, John, and what have you achieved really?

  9. “Dr Boffa continues to ensure growth of poverty and drug and alcohol abuse. All these years, John, and what have you achieved really?”
    That’s a very sweeping statement, Janet.
    I talked to a man two nights ago whom I’ve worked with for the past seven years. He was sitting behind the wheel of his car intoxicated, but we had a good conversation.
    I guess he was just waiting until he felt confident enough to drive the 90kms home. The point is that he has tried to give up the grog for the past five years and confided in me about his problems.
    He’s a family man and a good worker, but intergenerational alcoholism is not solved overnight.
    Dr Boffa’s continued attempts to “turn down the tap” and reduce alcohol supply from levels of consumption that were twice the national average a couple of years ago, have encouraged me in doing the same, not just for dear friends of mine, but also for myself.
    The Aussie drinking culture is out of control. There’s too much evidence, statistical, anecdotal and observational to be in denial about that.
    We need more leaders in this struggle, and it is a struggle.


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