A proposal for liquor restrictions to the entire Kimberley region in Western Australia would see the ban of takeaway sales of alcohol with the exception of light beers.
In May last year, Western Australia’s Police Commissioner Chris Dawson submitted an application to the Director of Liquor Licencing, advocating for restrictions, stating that his officers in the region had seen the negative impacts of alcohol on communities.
“This application has been made as a result of ongoing concerns regarding the harms of excessive alcohol consumption across the Kimberley,” Mr Dawson told The Australian earlier this month.
“These harms are significant. They impact upon law and order in the community in addition to the health and welfare of community members, and can only be addressed through a combined whole-of-government and community effort," he said.
The CEO of East Kimberley-based Aboriginal development organisation Wunan Foundation, Ian Trust, told NITV News he supports the liquor restriction but said alcohol abuse is not a black issue.
“There seems to be a perception that alcohol issues is amongst Aboriginal people and I don’t think that’s the case, it seems to be an underlying problem across the community at large, regardless of who you are,” Mr Trust said.
“I don’t see this being an Aboriginal problem, of course, our people are caught up in it but it’s not specifically an Aboriginal problem."
Currently, the cashless debit card operates in the East Kimberley region, cardholders are prohibited from purchasing alcohol. There are also takeaway restrictions in place limiting takeaway sales of full-strength alcohol to 2.25 litres (or three bottles of wine) and mid-strength to one carton of beer (11.25 litres) per customer.
In Halls Creek and Fitzroy Crossing, located in the central Kimberley area, only light to mid-strength beer is sold.
Yawuru man, Johani Mamid operates Mabu Buru Tours, one of the many Broome based Aboriginal tourism businesses.
The Mabu Buru Tours takes people around the Broome area sharing Dreamtime stories, language, and Aboriginal knowledge of the land, plants and animals.
Mr Mamid said he supports the restrictions but wants there to be a trial first, to ensure people can give feedback.
“I believe in doing what’s best for the health of the community, and if it’s identified that alcohol is an issue then I’m all for the change,” Mr Mamid said.
Despite the concerns raised by WA Premier Mark McGowan that the restrictions could impact on the tourism industry, Mr Mamid said he doesn’t believe it would affect his business at all.
“I don’t believe that they (tourists) come here for the alcohol, if we were to put in a ban or restriction for the alcohol, I don’t believe it would have a big effect on the numbers,” he said.
“When I do my tours, we’re not drinking on our tours, I don’t see people coming on our tours that are drunk, alcohol is not apart of our tourism.”
The State Premier has previously stated he would rather a register of banned drinkers in the region and has publicly opposed the Police Commissioner’s proposal.
“The problem with a blanket restriction is it impacts those people who do the right thing…to a degree, [it] removes self-determination from people as to what decisions individual communities want to make,” Mr McGowan said.
Mr Dawson said he had consulted with members of the Indigenous community before submitting his application. The decision on the proposal remains with the Director of Liquor Licencing.