Support services in the Northern Territory have warned banning alcohol in Aboriginal communities could create more problems than it fixes.
26 Jun 2007 - 12:00 AM  UPDATED 24 Feb 2015 - 12:37 PM

The federal government has vowed to ban hard-core pornography and cut-off access to alcohol and in remote settlements for six months under a radical reform agenda to combat child sex abuse.

Also see: Living Black

The move follows the release of a report which found disturbing evidence of widespread abuse and juvenile sex trade fuelled by "rivers of grog".

Alcohol ban questioned

Support organisations in the Northern Territory, who have spent years lobbying the federal and territory governments for more alcohol-related funds and services, have welcomed an attempt to control drinking.

But they question whether blanket bans are the best way to go.

Tennant Creek's Anyinginyi Health general manager Barbara Shaw said services were needed to support heavy drinkers and their families.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can include the shakes, depression and, sometimes, fits. In severe cases, withdrawal can be fatal.

"If you have got a situation where a family member is home and they start going through the withdrawal, they won't have the tools or the equipment to deal with that person or their needs."

Heavy or binge drinkers were not the only ones who could be affected by withdrawals. Some people who drank daily over a long period were also likely to suffer.

"This is not a quick-fix problem, and putting a blanket ban on alcohol is only one of the possible solutions," said Ms Shaw.

"(We must) look at the causes of alcoholism, like overcrowding, where 15 people live in one house, people living below the poverty line, people who have no work."

Work already done to address the issue had to be acknowledged, she said.

Services under pressure

Greg Barrodeen, a drug and alcohol councillor with a residential rehabilitation program in Darwin, said he expected more pressure on services in the city, including police, hospitals, ambulance and emergency accommodation.

"Most people already come into Darwin to drink, and, yes, this will mean even more people do," he said.

"But is it worse to have more people in here drinking and causing problems, or is it better to have them out in the communities where there is less police and they commit all these atrocities?"

However, Mr Barrodeen said alcoholics should undergo detoxification in a controlled environment with a reliable service.

"They are going to go through withdrawals... More people die from alcohol withdrawals than from all the other drugs combined."