The decision followed a recommendation from Dorrelle Anderson, who was appointed by the state and federal governments to look into alcohol laws following concerns about crime rates in Alice Springs. Communities who wish to return to alcohol availability will have a pathway to do so.
While some NT communities have had alcohol restrictions for decades, wider restrictions were imposed by the Federal Government in 2007 under a policy called the Intervention. Alcohol restrictions were extended in 2012 under Federal laws called ‘Stronger Futures’. When they expired in July 2022, communities that had pre-Intervention bans returned to them but other communities moved to an ‘opt-in’ system.
The NT Government says 88 out of 96 of the officially-recognised First Nations communities returned to or opted into bans. However, there has been a particular focus on communities and town camps around Alice Springs which have not had bans. There are reports of people moving to these communities and camps to access alcohol. There has been a significant spike in crime in Alice Springs, including assault, domestic violence and property damage since last November. This has prompted renewed scrutiny on alcohol availability.
The new measures:
In late January, the NT Government agreed to temporary controls on alcohol (in addition to controls it already imposed on operating hours, minimum prices and a ban on new takeaway liquor licences). However, the report from Dorrelle Anderson suggested further controls were needed. The Government has now adopted Anderson’s suggestion of immediate bans for the communities and town camps. Communities wishing to return to alcohol availability will be able to develop Community Alcohol Management Plans to do so provided they have the support of 60% of the adult population.
In a joint statement with Fyles, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese also announced new Federal Government funding for a range of services in Central Australia including youth engagement, health services and domestic violence services. The Federal Government also announced funding in January for “extra high visibility” police and emergency accommodation.
Anderson and NT Chief Minister Natasha Fyles both emphasised alcohol abuse was a symptom of a broader problem. Anderson acknowledged figures on domestic violence and alcohol-related harm were “alarming” but added they were “not new… all of them are closely related to the disproportionate disadvantage that Aboriginal people face at every level in our society and are visible on essentially every social index… A failure to seriously address the underlying drivers of alcohol misuse and youth crime will mean these harms continue to return year after year.”
“The children who have been spoken to have unanimously voice their hatred of alcohol and the harm it inflicts on their families. Their simple aspirations are to live in a ‘normal place’, have jobs when they are older and be able to support their families with basic needs. We need to listen to the most vulnerable in our community and act with urgency to address the current crisis but also tackle the extreme poverty and social disadvantage.” Central Australian Regional Controller Dorrelle Anderson.