Scrap alcohol ban and replace with adequate support, say Aboriginal communities.
Andrea Booth

5 Jan 2016 - 12:08 PM  UPDATED 5 Jan 2016 - 3:15 PM

Cherbourg Shire Council has called for the state's 15-year-old alcohol ban to be lifted and a partnership with the Queensland Government as the most effective ways to combat alcoholism.

The call comes after Cherbourg Shire and 18 other councils made submissions in late 2015 to the state government to lift alcohol restrictions.

Warren Collins, the CEO of Cherbourg Shire Council, said “the government should partner with the shire” to form strategies to address the root cause that leads to excessive drinking in parts of the community.

“People over using alcohol and alcohol-fuelled domestic violence should be targeted, but the government has used a blanket approach on everyone, which is not solving the problem,” he told NITV.

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Robert Holness, the mayor of the restricted Kowanyama Shire, says alcohol bans have worsened the problem.

“As soon as the alcohol management plan came in 2003, one thing we noticed straight away is that drug use went through the roof,” he said.

“Sly-grogging pretty much went from barely existing to just rampant, and well, the government went and put all the things in and didn’t have anything to back it up … they did a lot of crap at the time and we had to suffer for it.”

Errol Neal, the mayor of another restricted shire, Yarrabah, said his community were demonstrating that his community could drink responsibly.

“We have taken steps by having trials at community events. We have had five trials to date, without an inkling of any issues that may have a negative response”.

Queensland Indigenous Minister Curtis Pitt told NITV that the Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships had received the submissions and “will work with them” according to the varying aspirations of each community.

“Harm minimisation efforts must be community-led, co-designed, and integrated with other protective strategies that address community needs and priorities. I thank mayors for their proactive leadership on this front,” he said.

“But I have consistently stressed that the safety of all people – especially children, women and the elderly – must be able to be guaranteed.”

The alcohol management plans through remote Indigenous communities took effect in 2002 during the Beattie Government. They were called for review in 2012 under the Newman Government, and the process began in December when Mr Pitt met with the mayors of the Indigenous communities at the Community Futures Summit in Yarrabah.

Some want to change the restrictions and allow alcohol sales within differing limits, while others want to retain the current arrangements.

Communities like Aurukun, and Wujal Wujal have indicated that they want to retain their current management plans. Others like Mornington Island, Napranum, Palm Island, Kowanyama, Pormpuraaw and the Northern Peninsula Area are seeking revisions.

“While alcohol is a significant contributor of misery in communities, I have said to the mayors that we can’t look at it in isolation and expect to achieve the results we want,” he told NITV.

“The fact remains that alcohol-related harm rates are at unacceptable levels across Queensland’s 19 discrete communities. In fact it increased over the past three years, so we need to see that turn around soon."

With Jodan Perry

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