Alcohol restrictions are in place in many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Queensland with the aim of improving the health and well-being of all people living in these communities.
Mornington Island was one of 19 Indigenous Queensland communities to introduce an Alcohol Management Plan (AMP) in 2009 banning grog from the island and forcing the only pub to shut down.
The Mornington Island restricted area is the Mornington Shire including all public and private places in the 23 islands in the Wellesley, South Wellesley, Forsythe and Bountiful Island groups and Sweers Island.
No alcohol or homebrew and homebrew equipment is allowed in restricted areas and penalties for possession of alcohol are stiff – first offence 375 penalty units (currently $47,306), second offence 525 penalty units (currently $66,229) or 6 months imprisonment, third or subsequent offence 750 penalty units (currently $94,612) or 18 months imprisonment.
Vehicles found carrying alcohol in the restricted area may be confiscated and is also an offence to attempt to bring alcohol into the restricted area, possess a homebrew kit, equipment or concentrate with heavy fines and imprisonment.
However prohibition, as we have seen sadly across the world, many times over, simply does not work to fix drug problems.
And in Mornington’s case the grog problem has not gone away from the island, despite stiff enforcement penalties.
People have taken to making home brew which is expensive and potentially dangerous and the health problems from alcohol consumption continue to mount.
Now the Mornington Shire Council wants to amend its AMP to relax the rules.
It requires state government approval and Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Mark Furner is due to visit the island in the coming months.
Alcohol issues have badly affected Indigenous communities over the years so any decision to wind back the AMP won’t be easy, especially with a lot of domestic violence associated with drunkenness.
But clearly the current situation is not working and something needs to be done.
I commend Mornington Shire Council for their honest approach to a wicked problem – Derek Barry