Violence spikes in Northern Territory Indigenous communities after government lifted booze ban

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The end of a ‘race-based policy’ which saw alcohol banned in indigenous communities for 15 years has resulted in an immediate spike in violence and booze related injuries. 

The Northern Territory’s Associations and Liquor Amendment Bill 2022 passed in May gave indigenous communities the choice to ‘opt-in’ to a two-year extension of their alcohol-free status.

But out of 215 homelands, 12 remote communities and 32 town camps, only seven Aboriginal communities opted for the two-year extension, including Bagot, a northern suburb of Darwin.

Alcohol related violence and injuries have spiked after the government lifted a 15-year-long ban which restricted the sale of alcohol in remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory

Alcohol related violence and injuries have spiked after the government lifted a 15-year-long ban which restricted the sale of alcohol in remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory 

CEO of the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress Donna Ah Chee said the decision to overturn the alcohol ban, which she labelled as ‘positive discrimination’, has caused an increase in severe alcohol-related injuries in some Indigenous communities. 

‘We think it was a positive discrimination because it was so effective in helping to close the gap for our people,’ Ms Ah Chee told ABC RN on Wednesday. 

‘It actually protects the rights of women and children to be free from violence. 

‘Things have not settled. We’re hearing from multiple sources that are telling us that the harms have gone up a lot and have stayed up. 

‘We understand there has been an increase in severe alcohol-related fractures requiring surgery.’

The 2012 Stronger Futures legislation which extended alcohol bans in Indigenous communities until July this year was dubbed a 'race-based policy'. Only seven communities 'opted-in' for a two-year extension of the alcohol ban, including the Aboriginal community of Bagot, Darwin (pictured)

The 2012 Stronger Futures legislation which extended alcohol bans in Indigenous communities until July this year was dubbed a 'race-based policy'. Only seven communities 'opted-in' for a two-year extension of the alcohol ban, including the Aboriginal community of Bagot, Darwin (pictured)

The 2012 Stronger Futures legislation which extended alcohol bans in Indigenous communities until July this year was dubbed a ‘race-based policy’. Only seven communities ‘opted-in’ for a two-year extension of the alcohol ban, including the Aboriginal community of Bagot, Darwin (pictured)

Ms Ah Chee said anecdotal evidence from police, ambulance and hospital staff, as well as ‘many community members’, revealed all-night partying is at a much higher rate than before. 

She has called for transparency from the Northern Territory government and urged for the introduction of monitoring groups that rely on community data to establish the effects of alcohol in remote communities. 

‘We’re only hearing anecdotally, and that’s why I think we need to get this data and make it available so we cannot have a ‘she said he said’ moment,’ Ms Ah Chee said.  

‘We’re hearing this on the ground which is being said differently in the higher levels of government so I think we need to have some transparency.

‘If things are as the chief minister says, that things have gone back to normal, let’s look at that because that’s not what we’re seeing on the ground.’ 

CEO of the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress Donna Ah Chee (pictured) said the decision to overturn the policy, which she labelled as 'positive discrimination', has caused an increase in severe alcohol-related injuries

CEO of the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress Donna Ah Chee (pictured) said the decision to overturn the policy, which she labelled as 'positive discrimination', has caused an increase in severe alcohol-related injuries

CEO of the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress Donna Ah Chee (pictured) said the decision to overturn the policy, which she labelled as ‘positive discrimination’, has caused an increase in severe alcohol-related injuries

Northern Territory Chief Minister Natasha Fyles defended the move to lift alcohol restrictions and argued Aboriginal communities have the right to make such decisions. 

‘The intervention caused significant harm to Indigenous Territorians – they literally had their rights taken from them overnight,’ Ms Fyles said.  

‘In the last few weeks the conversation was almost as though the intervention was an amazing saviour but you’re asking me to go back to a race-based policy.

‘What I’m saying is that we have to find other ways to manage this and will do so with the Commonwealth government and Aboriginal leadership in the territory.’

The alcohol ban first came into force 15 years ago in 2007 under the Howard government during its NT Emergency Response, known as the NT Intervention.

It was extended for 10 years under Labor with the Stronger Futures legislation introduced in 2012, which expired this year.

That meant alcohol restrictions covered by the NT Liquor Act will be the only ones to continue in the Territory. 

Donna Ah Chee 

Donna Ah Chee is a Bundjalung woman from the far north coast of New South Wales and has lived in Central Australia for over 30 years. 

Ms Ah Chee is the CEO of Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, an Aboriginal community-controlled primary health care service employing over 400 staff to deliver integrated services in Alice Springs and six nearby remote communities. 

On June 16, Ms Ah Chee was awarded the Honorary Doctor of Arts from Charles Darwin University in recognition of her significant contribution to the health of First Nations peoples.

Donna Ah Chee (second from left) awarded the Honorary Doctor of Arts in recognition of her contribution to First Nations peoples

Donna Ah Chee (second from left) awarded the Honorary Doctor of Arts in recognition of her contribution to First Nations peoples

Donna Ah Chee (second from left) awarded the Honorary Doctor of Arts in recognition of her contribution to First Nations peoples

She has made a significant contribution to the health of Aboriginal people through her leadership in primary health care, research, education and public health. 

Ms Ah Chee has been instrumental in developing and implementing culturally responsive and comprehensive approaches to primary health care which has influenced the reform of services across the Northern Territory.

Ms Ah Chee has been appointed to numerous high level Aboriginal health and government boards including:

– Chairperson of the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT).

– Chairperson of the Northern Territory Aboriginal Health Forum. 

– Director of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO).

– Expert member of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan Implementation Advisory Group. 

– Served as Chair of the Aboriginal Benefits Account (ABA).  

– Appointed as the independent chair of the inaugural NT Children and Families Tripartite Forum. 

Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk


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