The state government has rejected the accusation it is dragging its heels on the roll-out of Alcohol Management Plans for Mornington Island and other remote Aboriginal shires.
Deputy Premier and Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Jackie Trad said they were continuing to work with local leaders, their communities and across government to build on the discussions to date and help inform the future approach.
“Alcohol management is a complex issue and it’s important to take the time to ensure the views of community members and stakeholders are taken into consideration through this process,” Ms Trad said.
“Improving the safety and wellbeing of community members will continue to be the focus of the review which is expected to be finalised by early 2019.”
Earlier in the week state KAP Leader and member for Traeger Robbie Katter added his voice to council leaders demanding Labor take immediate action saying the issue had dragged on way too long.
“I first queried the Government on their plans for AMPs in 2012 and local councils have been pushing for changes for a long time,” Mr Katter said.
Mr Katter said the new review was too late.
“This dedication to inaction by the Labor Government is ruining lives and destroying communities and must stop. Not next year, but right now,” he said.
“Communities are in dire straits.”
Mornington Shire CEO Frank Mills said if the government was committed to closing the gap they have to get rid of prohibition.
“People don’t understand that this law is literally killing the population and it will continue until this problem is solved,’’ Mr Mills said.
“We want to keep working with the Government on this issue but if they walk away from it until 2019 it will devastate our community.’’
Mr Katter said communities have put up with years of reviews which have not yielded anything tangible.
“These people are not being treated the same as other Australians, they can’t buy a beer at the local pub and they can’t bring a six pack to a barbecue,’’ he said.
“Many people have resorted to making and drinking their own toxic brand of alcohol or chancing their luck with the law by bringing a bottle of wine home. The health, employment and sociological impacts is devastating local communities.”
Mr Katter said if they get caught making home brew, or with a bottle of wine they can receive a criminal record, which means they become ineligible to apply for a Blue Card which impacts on their chances of employment in a very small community, while the toxicity and high alcohol content of the home brew is severely affecting their health.
Alf Lacey, Mayor of Palm Island Aboriginal Shire Council said alcohol laws were destroying his community AMPs had become critical for his community.
“We are seeing 1000 people every week having to go to court because they come off the boat with a bottle of wine to have with their dinner,” Cr Lacey said.
“Can you imagine people on the mainland putting up with that? This is criminalising our society.
“The blanket, ‘one size fits all’ approach is not working. Individual communities must be allowed to set their own arrangements.’’
The government said the latest review would consider:
- The evidence base regarding alcohol misuse, the causes of high levels of violence and alcohol management strategies
- The effectiveness and impacts of current AMP supply and demand strategies to reduce alcohol-related harm
- The impact of AMPs on community members and regional centres
- Future strategies to manage alcohol misuse and reduce alcohol-related harm, in each community.