Availability of Alcohol in Aboriginal Communities

GrogWatch asked A/Prof Peter d’Abbs, noted researcher from the Menzies School of Health Research in Darwin, for his view of the conflict in the Northern Territory and Queensland over the place of alcohol in Aboriginal communities. For reasons of space we have summarised Peter’s response below:

  • Governments have  a responsibility to ensure safety and wellbeing of citizens, especially women and children;
  • The restrictions on liquor availability in Queensland were introduced because many communities were wracked by violence and dysfunction due to excessive drinking by a minority;
  • The restrictions on drinking have led to improved living conditions for people in Aboriginal communities in Queensland, but the new norms are fragile and not yet sustainable;
  • Before the Federal Government intervention most Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory decided they wanted to be dry, or have little access to alcohol;
  • The basic need is to achieve a balance of state authority and respect for local wishes so the fundamental right to safety and wellbeing takes precedence over the less fundamental ‘right to drink alcohol’.