Kowanyama Aboriginal Shire Council Mayor Michael Yam told NITV he commended the police as “it was a job well done.”
Officers uncovered the alcohol around 4.30am on New Year's Day when they intercepted a four-wheel drive at Kowanyama, where the supply of alcohol is illegal. The seizure is one of the biggest hauls ever confiscated.
Police say the haul, which included 57 casks of wine, would have been resold at inflated prices, with estimations the grog would have fetched some $14,000. Police also seized the four-wheel drive being used to transport the alcohol and charged three men in the vehicle.
Even though Mr Yam personally disagrees with blanket alcohol restrictions, as he considers them to be discriminatory, he says many in the community don’t share his views.
“The community speaks for itself. Everyone has their own opinion”.
Acting Superintendent Rolf Straatemeier also applauded the procedure.
"The supply of this amount of alcohol is likely to have increased instances in public nuisance offences, assault offences and incidents of domestic violence," he says.
Kowanyama community is subject to strict alcohol restrictions, prohibiting individuals holding any alcohol, and banning any vehicles carrying alcohol anywhere within the community.
Mr Yam explains the only place where alcohol can be sold and consumed is at the local sports centre, which is open four days a week (Wednesday to Saturday), where members are only allowed to drink 10 beers.
The Queensland Government’s Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships has published a factsheet outlining Kowanyama’s Alcohol Management Plan (AMP), which aims to reduce alcohol related violence, particularly violence against women and children in the community.
According to this document, people living in Kowanyama may apply to have their home declared a 'dry place'.
Maximum penalties for possessing illegal alcohol in the restricted area exceed $45,000 for the first offence, over $63,000 for the second offence or 6 months imprisonment, and over $91,000 or 18 months imprisonment for the third or subsequent offence.
Mr Yam agrees there is a direct link between alcohol and drug abuse and violence issues in the town. However, he also explained that other aggravating issues related to living remotely also fuel tensions that create violence.
“Statistics show it’s very hard in the community at the moment. Violence sometimes just happens,” he says.
“Not all people in all communities are bad people, there’s good and bad. If you work out the statistics around Australia, not all are good or bad… but we do have repeat offenders here."
The Kowanyama men at the centre of the seize (aged 34, 28, and 36), are each charged with possession of liquor in a restricted area. They are due to front court later this month.
Police said the alcohol was only intercepted because local officers got called out to an unrelated job just before 3am.