Minister for Indigenous Affairs has a chance to seize the day in his new role and implement a new Alcohol Management Plan (AMP) on Mornington Island.
Minister Mark Furner joined State MP Robbie Katter and Ministerial Champion for Mornington Island, Jennifer Howard, in an AMP Strategic Review meeting with Mornington Shire Council on Tuesday.
The people of Mornington Island have been under prohibition since 2004, resulting in the production of high-alcohol home brew and a booming black market.
Police say 75 per cent of people on the island were drinking home brew regularly.
Minister Furner is the second Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships that Mr Katter has encouraged to visit the island and meet with council on this issue.
Council CEO, Frank Mills, said it is no secret the island has a serious problem, but a lot of the work has been to gather data to support it.
Councillors expressed their frustration with the lack of action on the home brew issue, saying a review of the AMP needs to be implemented urgently.
“We have been talking about this for years now. Our people are suffering. We want action now, let’s put something down,” said Councillor Jane Ah Kit.
“I’m angry, I’m frustrated, I’m sick of talking. We need to make something happen,” she said.
Councillors also discussed school attendance and unemployment.
Mayor Bradley Wilson stressed the need for more jobs on the island.
“We have the highest unemployment rate in Queensland. We are trying to get people into meaningful, purposeful work,” Mayor Wilson said.
The Council has implemented a new apprentice program, which is doing well.
The contracting of young people for fencing work on the island has led to many of them gaining full-time work.
Councillors discussed ways to encourage small business opportunities.
“Employment doesn’t just mean money, it means purpose, it means providing for the family. It means so much more to them on a personal level,” Cr. Sarah Isaacs said.
Along with apprentice programs the Council has also reintroduced Community Police as of on July 1.
Minister Mark Furner assured the Council he was taking the issue seriously.
“I thank Robbie for organising this meeting. This is foremost in my mind as a serious issue that needs attention. We do take this matter seriously. It’s great to hear first hand from yourselves today,” Minister Furner said.
Mark Furner became the Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships in February, and has since been visiting Indigenous communities.
Mr Katter said the AMP is “low-hanging fruit” for Minister Furner.
“We’ve got a good productive Council who want to do something, the Police are all for it, the health service is all for it, the locals are screaming for it,” Mr Katter said.
“And it’s great for the government to be here, to hear the anguish and the discontent first hand.”
Council should have a draft ready in mid September, and a final draft to release to the community for consultation in early to mid October.
“It will be out for consultation with all and sundry once it is complete,” CEO Frank Mills said.