Sunday, May 26, 2024

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HomeIssue 13Grog stats: No independent review

Grog stats: No independent review

2641 alcohol graphBy ERWIN CHLANDA
Both the re-introduction of the Banned Drinkers Register in September 2017 and the deploying of auxiliary cops at bottle shops (PALIs) in August 2018 were followed by increases in assaults in Alice Springs.
The People’s Alcohol Action Coalition (PAAC) last week claimed that the introduction of the full-time PALI system in Alice Springs on October 1 last year “has contributed to a very significant reduction in alcohol-related assaults, alcohol-related domestic violence assaults, and alcohol-related emergency department presentations”.
The figures that appear to substantiate this point are from October 2017 to March 2018, compared with the corresponding period the following year.
This comparison shows massive drops of around 50%.
Trouble is, December 2017 was the month with the highest number of assaults in Alice Springs for the past two years, so a drop is likely.
In fact with the new PALIs – now trained as auxiliary police officers – firmly in place the numbers aren’t all that different when compared to the year starting October 2016, before PALIs but with fully trained police manning the bottle shops.
In February 2016 PAAC spokesman John Boffa said there should be an immediate evaluation of the Temporary Beat Location (TBL – the forerunner of the PALIs) and he called for an alternative ID scanning system.
Left: Action on alcohol in Alice has a long history: In 1990, the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress purchased a food outlet and an attached takeaway liquor licence, and allowed the licence to lapse immediately, pouring out booze in Gap Road.
The numbers shown in our graph (pictured at top) are assault numbers, whereas PAAC spokeswoman Vicki Gillick last week quoted “total alcohol-related assaults” and “domestic violence alcohol related assaults”.
Both of these categories are included in the “assault” statistics we are quoting.
Ms Gillick says the figures came from NT Police and Health.
The government, very legitimately, has a strong interest in the figures looking good. But without suggesting any wrongdoing, it would seem advisable to get a second opinion, given the enormous drops being claimed.
The police says no independent reviews are being carried out. As things stand, the government provides all of the following:-
• The initial data (assaults reported to the police and hospital admissions, not court decisions).
• The interpretation of the nature of the events: Was the person intoxicated? Was the injury caused by domestic violence?
• The statistics.
Meanwhile, there are multiple ways people can land on the Banned Drinkers Register.
A government website says a person “may” get placed on the BDR through referral by registered nurses, doctors, Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency psychologists, psychiatrists, physiotherapists, paramedics, child protection workers, social workers, sobering up shelter team leaders, public housing safety officers, Aboriginal health workers, Australian Counselling Association Level 4 counsellors, family members and carers worried about the person’s harmful drinking, police and the courts.
The Alice Springs News is seeking access to the raw police and health data underpinning the alcohol control measures on the condition that privacy is not breached.


  1. What happens when assaults become part of a culture and not just a result of alcohol?
    Kids of all colours grow up with this and are influenced by these actions and assume this is just normal life.
    The only way forward is for people in these circumstances to realise the problem and want to change.

  2. 1. The PALIs started full-time at bottle shops on 1st October 2018, not August. Since then there has been a clear and dramatic reduction in alcohol-related assaults – unless the police are making it up.
    2. When sworn police were conducting TBLs or POSIs at the bottle shops, their attendance became sporadic, and PAAC frequently complained publicly about their absences. You can find numerous media releases on or search for stories online.
    3. I said the statistics came from NT Police and Health because they do come from those sources. Look them up; it is simple. Put in an FoI application.
    4. The BDR, as explained to the Alice Springs News, was indeed re-introduced in September 2017. That does not mean that the approximately 4,000 people in the NT who are now on it, were immediately registered. Police had expected it would reach up to 7,000 in its first year, but it has not done so to date.
    Professionals other than police probably need to be more willing to refer clients to the BDR Registrar, but no doubt some remain concerned about confidentiality with clients. It is correct that they are not compelled to refer.
    5. It is our understanding that the alcohol reform measures will be rigorously evaluated. This is something PAAC has lobbied for over a long period. This does not mean that the full-time PALIs and arguably the other measures have no current effect; nor does it mean the NT police and Health are cooking the books. As suggested when we spoke, you could contact the head of ED at the ASP hospital, Dr. Gourley.
    6. You report that: “In February 2016 PAAC spokesman John Boffa said there should be an immediate evaluation of the Temporary Beat Location (TBL – the forerunner of the PALIs) and he called for an alternative ID scanning system.”
    That’s right – because the sporadic presence of what were then TBLs was staring to become apparent in the police data. That was in February 2016 and we wanted the then Giles government to evaluate the TBLs to see if they worked. We still want the PALis to be evaluated, and the current NT Government has agreed (in keeping with the Riley Review’s recommendation) that this will be done.
    7. Check the meaning of “disingenuous”.

  3. Re Vicki Gillick: On June 4 I approached the hospital, via its media liaison person, and the NT police, via its media section, for access to the raw data underpinning the alcohol control measures, on the condition that privacy is not breached. (Note the last paragraph of the report above.)
    This would include such documents as police running sheets and emergency department individual admission records.
    No doubt Ms Gillick has made similar requests in the interest of “evidence-based reforms and rigorous evaluations” to which she refers in her comment of May 29.
    Our requests are still being considered by the hospital and the police.
    We’re of course happy to collaborate with Ms Gillick in our quests for information about these issues.
    Erwin Chlanda, Editor


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