I hosted a lunch with the Chronic Preventative Health worker from Alice Springs. The man she principally sought and tried to get to the lunch was intoxicated by 11am. I told her this was the way it had been for the past 18 months with this forty-five year old, talented, bi-lingual remote community man who'd had a stroke at that time. RUSSELL GUY sees the grog mayhem up close in a "dry" community not far from Alice. PHOTO: The sign nailed to the tree says: "Let there be light in the darkness."
The new government's grappling with alcohol problems is off to a chaotic start.
Deputy Chief Minister Robyn Lambley called a meeting of "stakeholders" – excluding the media and the public. But uninvited guests – family and friends of Kwementyaye Briscoe who died in the Alice Springs watchhouse in January – turned the gathering into noisy chaos, with his aunt, Patricia Morton Thomas (pictured), noisily demanding that police be charged.
With the death of Kwementyaye Briscoe in the Alice Springs police watchhouse in January (the image at right was produced in evidence at the inquest), and the recent death of Thomas Kelly in Kings Cross, there is a rapidly increasing public awareness of the fact that Australians have allowed a national drinking culture to escalate into unacceptable levels of alcohol-related violence and self-harm.
Control of booze abuse will be a major issue for the August 25 election, yet neither major party will answer questions whether they get financial support from the alcohol industry and if so, how much.
Campaign donation figures available to the public are often from companies or donors whose connections to the liquor industry are not clear, but neither Opposition Leader Terry Mills nor Chief Minister Paul Henderson will provide explanations.
Take-away is where the money is (70% of alcohol sold in the NT is take-away). Agitating for take-away sales-free days is asking for a trade-off in lives over profit. Unsurprisingly, restricting this supply is not a popular call. In formulating the NT Country Liberals’ alcohol policy, Mr Mills makes the prima facie claim: “It’s behavior that’s the problem, not the substance.”
According to McCuster Centre For Action on Alcohol and Youth, over the last 10 years about 15% of all deaths among 15-24 year olds were due to risky / high risk drinking. On average, five Australians under 25 die from injury or disease caused by hazardous drinking each week and Indigenous people are more than twice as likely to die.
When an intoxicated Indigenous woman holds up her hand and stops a train besides the now ironically named, Little Sisters Town Camp, it could be that she’s saying “Stop!” to the free market grog trade decimating her community.
The tragedy is that it doesn’t stop there. If this woman is pregnant, the unborn child is likely to suffer Foetal Alcohol Sprectrum Disorder.
Terry Mills faces the Australian Christian Lobby’s Make it Count Election Forum at CDU, Darwin next Thursday, August 9 at 7:30pm. The webcast will be streamed live to the Baptist Church, cnr Crispe and Brown St, Alice Springs.
Paul Henderson, NT Chief Minister declined to participate. COMMENT by RUSSELL GUY.
Love pricks the course in lights across the chart.
– A. D. Hope
Pamela Lofts, well-loved Alice Springs artist and children's book illustrator, died yesterday. She leaves behind important legacies in both fields.
The desert has been at the heart of her life and art since 1980. She loved its beauty as much as anyone, as evidenced in her work, but more importantly, she saw the desert as "a storied place" and its stories were the matter she worked with. They told not only of what can be found there, but also what cannot; they were full of the haunting presence of lost possibilities – the lost way of life of the original inhabitants, the lost opportunity of another kind of settlement too.
This kind of awareness may have equipped her all too well to address the matter of her own dying in an exhibition held at Watch This Space in Alice Springs in July last year. In a series of drawings of migratory birds who have breathed their last, fully expended at the end of life's long journey, she expressed the sorrow of death at the same time as a profound acceptance of it as a state intimately connected to life, one shared by all living things. The series was remarkable for its meditative beauty (achieved in a sublime display of the artist's drawing skill) as well as for its unflinching courage.
Much more is to be said about Pamela Lofts' contribution to art, to children's literature, to the community – and we will bring a more complete obituary to our readers. Today the Alice Springs News salutes a fine talent and an exemplary spirit who has left this life too soon.
When Kwementyaye Briscoe died in the Alice Springs police watch house in January it was a tragic event for him, his family and the community. The coronial enquiry heard evidence that police procedure surrounding the death was inadequate and more appropriate action by several officers may have prevented the death of the extremely drunk man. Counsel for the Northern Territory Police Association (NTPA) Lex Silvester addressed the enquiry and acknowledged the severity of the events: "That Kumanji’s death occurred in the circumstances then prevailing is a matter for profound regret. The loss of a child, brother, sister, relative or friend causes terrible grief the extent of which can only ever be known to those closest." However, much of Mr Silvester's address to the Coroner, in its content and significance to the community, went well beyond the events of that night. It painted a horrendous picture of the trauma, mayhem and tragedy alcohol is causing, and the intolerable burden that is placed on the police, every day. It went further to urge a sweeping independent review of the take-away liquor trade in Alice Springs. The Alice Springs News Online has been an important forum for discussion about better management and control of the use of alcohol. It is in this spirit that we publish excerpts from Mr Silvester's submission.
PHOTO: Police CCTV image of Kwementyaye Briscoe in the watch house shortly before his death.
Hourly visits to police cells checking on inmates were a routine task for social workers employed by Tangentyere, says former Alice identity Eddie Taylor (pictured).
He says for four or five years in the late 1990s the youth night patrol called at the police cells, spoke to all prisoners and made sure they were OK. Mr Taylor says if the scheme had been continued, it may have saved the life of Kwementyaye Briscoe whose death in the police cells is the subject of a coronial enquiry.
Petrol sniffing, once one of the greatest sources of misery in Central Australia, has turned into a success story. The strategy of how to all but eradicate the scourge was developed, promoted and implemented by a small Alice Springs based team attached to Tangentyere Council, the Central Australian Youth Link Up Service (CAYLUS). In the next few days its head, Blair McFarland, will be meeting with SA Substance Abuse Minister, John Hill, and his WA counterpart, Helen Morton. They're interested in importing the scheme. ERWIN CHLANDA reports.
Pictured: Central Australian Youth Link Up Service bush trip. Blair McFarland with hat.
ABOVE: Google Earth image of Laramba, a bush settlement north-west of Alice Springs. The killings happened in the vicinity. BELOW: One of the convicted, Travis Gibson. Having had his jaw broken was one of the triggers of the drunken payback raid.
Five out of six were drunk on the night.
One out of six is a reformed heavy drinker, sober on the night.
Two out of six are alcoholics.
Four out of six had parents who were alcoholics or heavy drinkers.
Two out of six are married to alcoholics and these couples have had children.
The two victims of the six were drunk at the time of their deaths.
In the evening of December 22, 2009 six men left Alice Springs in a red Ford Falcon, bound for Laramba, a small settlement of some 300 people, around 200 kilometres to the north-west. Four of the men were armed: one had a large military-style knife, another a tyre iron, and two had nulla nullas (clubs). They were also travelling with grog: on a trip that takes around two and a half hours, they drank one and a half cartons of VB beer and a cask of Moselle between them, all but the driver. This was on top of grog that at least some of them had consumed during the day.
There was a purpose to the trip: the six intended to confront men at Laramba over a long-running dispute between their family, the Gibsons, and the Dixon-Stafford family. In particular, they were going to look for brothers Adrian and Watson Dixon and another person, who were seen as responsible for the assault on one of the Gibsons some months before, breaking his jaw.
By midnight two men in Laramba, not the Dixon brothers, were dead, as a result of stabbings to the thigh. KIERAN FINNANE reports.