Ella Simon was an Aboriginal woman whose affectionate, white father lived near Taree in New South Wales, while she grew up on nearby Purfleet Mission, in the years before WW2. Ella married and farmed vegetables with her husband for the Army during the war, before writing an account of her life, Through My Eyes (1978: 126). In those days, Aboriginal people weren’t allowed to visit hotels or any other licensed place. They weren’t allowed to be in possession of alcohol. It was a total ban, but as Ella notes “there was always some ‘sympathetic’ white man ready to buy his black ‘pals’ a drink or two, or sell it to them for a bit of profit, and this was the cause of a lot of the disturbances – the white man willing to give it to the black man if there was something in it for him."
As the Alice Springs prison system overflows, it’s clear that not much has changed in the past eighty years. There’s an argument that “people drink for different reasons”, but with the annual, national cost of servicing abuse at $15b, a case can be made for the State to draw a line with a regulatory process aimed at reducing both this cost and unacceptable levels of self-harm. Comment by RUSSELL GUY.
Image: A child’s drawing found in a beer garden beside the Stuart Highway, NT.