The elusive ‘Port Augusta model’

As police continue their law and order blitz in Alice, the Town Council stumbles towards a bigger picture approach.

 

By KIERAN FINNANE

 

At last night’s meeting councillors appeared to vote for something they did not want.

Instead of a report on how the Port Augusta council calls governments and bureaucrats to account for their policies and actions in that town,  councillors instructed, by formal vote, the Director of Corporate and Community Services to engage a consultant to evaluate the Port Augusta Alcohol Management Group and its community alcohol management plan.

This is despite their determination in the committee meeting a fortnight ago that what they wanted to understand about Port Augusta went well beyond how that town manages alcohol issues.

At that committee meeting Councillor Liz Martin said she was looking for something far more “holistic”. She also identified a number of points of difference between Port Augusta and Alice Springs, one being a much lesser degree of “urban drift”, due to the number of well-serviced communities and towns (with hospitals and sporting grounds, for example) within a 250 km radius of the southern city.

Cr Steve Brown, who originally got the ball rolling on the “Port Augusta model”, also made clear a fortnight ago that his interest was not specifically about alcohol, but rather the overall management of the town. The Alice Springs Town Council does not have a group that “oversees the management of the entire town through all its aspects”, he said.

Cr Martin agreed: “We need to take a leading role in our town”, she said, telling the other levels of government what needs to be done about the issues “they cause in our town with their policies”.

Last night’s instruction to the director stipulated that the evaluation will make comparisons between Alice Springs and Port Augusta and will also provide a desktop evaluation of “similar plans” in Ceduna, Mildura and Katherine, but the fact remains that the two specific points of focus for the consultation were identified in the motion as the Port Augusta Alcohol Management Group and its community alcohol management plan.

The Alice Springs News Online spoke to Cr Brown and Mayor Damien Ryan after the meeting, to ask whether they were concerned that their motion would too narrowly focus the consultation. They assured the Alice News that the director knew what councillors were after.

The Alice News sought further clarification from the director, Craig Catchlove, today. He said in an email: “The consultancy will have a broad focus. If you read the Plan you will see it covers a very broad swathe of issues, and this consultancy will be looking at everything that is relevant even if not in the Plan.”

The Alice News has read the Plan, subtitled “A journey Towards Responsible Drinking in Our Community”. While it does cover a broad range of issues as any alcohol plan worthy of the name would do, it does not go beyond that. It does not resemble in any way the kind of council-convened group with a “holistic” overseeing focus as envisaged by Crs Brown and Martin.

Mr Catchlove has a consultant in mind – someone who has done a lot of work for council before and who has had senior roles in local government in South Australia. That person has quoted $13,280 to deliver a report to council. Let’s hope that it does end up being a report on something council wants to know, because Alice Springs already has an alcohol management plan, as well as a community action plan.

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13 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. russell guy
    Posted June 4, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    I’d like to add an observation relating to my post below @ May 31. NT culture is not done any favours by media outlets such as last Sunday’s ‘Territorian.’

    The regular page three feature of a woman suggestively playing with her bikini reaches a new low when we are told that she is an “exotic dancer” earning money for an “orphanage” in Thailand.

    Promiscuity often ends in unwanted pregnancies and is a dubious way of sponsoring an orphanage, but the ‘Territorian’ obviously sees no contradiction.

    It frequently carries advertising for certain brands of beer where alcohol is used to promote the sexual objectification of
    women.

    It’s no surprise that the alcohol industry has failed at self-regulation, contributes campaign funding for both NT political parties and cultivates a lascivious, yobbo culture. It’s real Corporate Citizen Role Model stuff and deserving of the inaugural ‘Raw Prawn of the Year Award’.

    Unfortunately, this infulence is spreading – slowly taking over roadhouses on the track between Alice and Darwin – with lewd souvenirs replacing the authentic Territory style artifact.

    It’s as if we have no power to halt the decline of community standards and rescue our reputation in tourism and associated alcohol reform. One thing is certain, it won’t get any better. Fears for future generations of Territorians are well-placed.

    The tragedy is that our politicians are often compromised themselves or held to ransom by a constitutency who are influenced by and support this junk culture.

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  2. russell guy
    Posted June 1, 2012 at 8:11 am

    Janet,
    I’m glad you’re hearng the message, but you don’t get it. You and Steve have maintained the same inflexible position for the past four months. What concerns me is that you, being CLP supporters, support a backwards looking alcohol policy, while at least the NTG is moving forward on the complexity of alcohol-abuse.

    Despite your incomprehension of evidence-based stats, they are making inroads into the dysfunction, unlike the CLP who wish to turn back the clock and immerse us in a gulag-style, uncosted imbroglio.

    You have completely missed the point of the postmodern explanation for how we got here. Fortunately, other postings have woken up to the fact that Cr Brown, and with respect, your good self are both out of your depth in your current position.

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  3. Janet brown
    Posted June 1, 2012 at 7:01 am

    Mankind like his issues is a complex lot of variables. Russell you use other countries’ sudden out cry of it’s the abuse of alcohol causing the issues. Could not possibly be loss of work, not being able to find work. Relationship break downs and oh my, financial decline. People usually turn to drink and drugs when life gets to hard. FACT. People turn to drink and drugs when the feel they have lost control, when they lose a job or cannot find one. Many many excuses to turn to drink and drugs. We do hear you Russell (hard not to) but they rest of us are concerned with why people drink and do drugs. So we are trying to fix the why the best we can. We know we have a problem, we are attempting to fix it at its root cause and we will deal with each step as we heal one. Cutting off the grog just brings more anger, more hopelessness and more despair to those who have lost their way and given up finding anything good in life. My knowledge is set in the area of behavioral science. I look for the cause to know what path to follow for the cure. Stats have no interst to me when they depict only the end, not how we got there.

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  4. Sean
    Posted May 31, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    So a report is the answer. Another report. What a damn fizzer, talk about crash and burn. So much for ACTION.

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  5. russell guy
    Posted May 31, 2012 at 10:10 am

    Steve ‘Crikey’ Brown @ 30 May. I’d like to thank Cr Brown for the opportunity to explain what is meant by a postmodern era in relation to social policy, with particular reference to alcohol regulation.

    Postmodernism entered the social science literature in the late-1960s as an attempt to differentiate between the modern period which began about three hundred years ago in science and the arts, leading to the present, where we are seeing the break-down of societies, not just in fiscal management, but in morality and drug abuse.

    In terms of alcohol, whereby the NT Chief Magistrate contradicts Cr Brown by naming it as the biggest problem the community is facing, the UK, Scotland, Ireland and New Zealand governments have all, in recent months, drafted Bills in an attempt to curb alcohol-abuse.

    In Australia, the situation is well referenced by anyone who has kept tabs on the debate during the past four months in the AS News, something which Cr Brown has of late referred to as having risen to “ridiculous” levels.

    In Alice Springs, the “symptom” he refers to as the result of “a much bigger, deeper problem” is arguably the other way around.

    The supply of pure alcohol in a standard drink, multiplied by the quantity consumed in any given 24 hour period, by the amount of money available has produced pathological statistics, the latest of which I have referred to in my post below, quoting FARE’s research on Australian, alcohol-related morbidity.

    The social and bureaucratic dysfunction in Alice Springs, relates specifically to the mechanisms of alcohol supply, welfare benefits and employment creation for the majority of the so-called ‘problem drinkers’ who just happen to be blackfellas. Is that a co-incidence, I wonder?

    Interestingly, the FARE research at a national level, indicates that a majority of whitefellers have a problem with alcohol and that is also the case in Alice Springs.

    By analysing social policy pertaining to alcohol regulation against the abuse-related statistics during the past forty years in Alice Springs, we can easily arrive at an analysis of why such modern policy has caused alcohol-induced social dysfunction. This has been presented, locally, NT-wide and nationally and is still incoming as a major cause of concern and expense in a contracting economy.

    By applying a postmodern approach (which is really common sense, however uncommon among community leaders) to policy making, it is possible to change the course of history, because, as I’m sure even Cr Brown is aware, if we don’t learn from history, we are condemned to suffer the consequences.

    NT Government and NT Opposition alcohol policies differ widely. It would be encouraging to be able to think that the NT electorate would consider policy, rather than politics for the future good of the whole community.

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  6. Kevin Mudford
    Posted May 30, 2012 at 11:53 pm

    Ha, alcohol is a drug and it’s all the same old same old comments. I’m a recovered drunk I gave up grog 31 years ago and solved all my stuff the second I put the cork back in the bottle, that is the only cure for Alice’s grog problem. Make Alice a dry town, then there is not going to be a drink problem. Stop fooling your self while you still sell grog. Nothing will ever change. Get a life. Kiwi Kevin.

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  7. Steve Brown
    Posted May 30, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    Crikey, might be time some of you took a breath, as for R Guy I would certainly agree that alcohol and its issues is his biggest problem, but it certainly isn’t the town’s biggest problem.
    Alcohol abuse is simply a sympton of a much bigger, deeper problem. It is that bigger problem that I wish to address. It will take long term planning and sustained effort. Give us credit for a few brains and a little determination. I have personally been at the forefront of both “action” and “demand for change”, in Alice and the Territory for a number of years. I’m not going to give that up after a few brief moments in Council! It takes a little time to learn the ropes. Fools rush in!
    My management proposal for Alice is a simple management tool that allows easy monitoring of all departmental activities, goals, intentions and hopefully progress. To put it together has and will take many tedious hours. The information that will be inputted needs to be the right information as it will be making judgements on what departments could and should be achieving for the foreseeable future. Before tediously inputting this into the documents I would like to know that we are inputting the latest avaliable successful programs. The original report Council looked at was a document setting out where Port Agusta started with their alcohol management plan many years ago. This plan was eventually expanded into the overall management plan I have been discussing. The Council’s Director is well aware of this and will instruct the Consultant to take into account all aspects of the plan not just those relating to alcohol. I would like to know as I’m sure you all would, what has been learnt, what has been achieved since the Plan’s implementation before we go ahead and use any of what is in their original Plan.
    Port Augusta will not be the only source of experience for our model. We will be drawing up a management plan unique to Alice Springs drawing every bit of knowledge and experience from as wide and as far as possible. Port Augusta was picked out for special attention because it has long been held up as a successful management story dealing with issues very similar to our own. There will be no instant miracles from this plan, we are talking about long term strategic planning that will begin step by step movement in a considered direction, as opposed to the present unplanned floundering.
    Putting it together will be a slow tedious process for people who are already very busy in their own lives. Give us a bit of space, give us a bit of time, and maybe even get off your own proverbials and give a bit of a hand! Yeah, I know it’s all a bit dull down at Council, hard working cooperative Councils mostly able to achieve mutually agreed outcomes don’t make very good spectator sport. My apologies for that, but I am not in Council for the theatre, I’m here in the hope of achieving sustained long term change for the better. I think and I hope this Council has the potential to achieve that, for all our sakes, for the sake of Alice. I hope I’m right.

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  8. Russell Guy
    Posted May 30, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    “Controlled” canteens on communities have a history of doing anything but give women and kids a good night’s sleep. This week, the New Zealand government has agreed to introduce a Bill to restrict access to alcohol, but here in Alice, with a recognised crisis, curbing the underlying supply that has festered for forty years is resisted.
    Research released this week by FARE reveals that “every week, on average, sixty Australians die and a further 1500 are hospitalised as a result of alcohol. A significant number of Australians continue to drink to excess, with over four million Australians reporting drinking alcohol to get drunk, and over two million doing so at least once a month”.
    Those are significant numbers in any language. My analysis of alcohol induced social problems in Alice suggests that welfare reform, alcohol reform and job creation would ease this situation, while contributing to productivity, health, tourism and economic benefits to the community.
    However, there is a glaring lack of an inertial guidance system. The Police Commissioner’s whole-of-community solution has a political use-by date and the ASTC’s so-called “Port Augusta” model is showing signs of blowing out and death by consultancy.
    In a postmodern social policy era, this is a real challenge for those who are prepared to have a go. John Reid has suggested a public forum, but I wonder if that sort of thing works anymore. The level of bureaucratic and community dysfunction in Alice is extraordinary, but those who agree that alcohol is our biggest problem have my attention.

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  9. Hal Duell
    Posted May 30, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    While Council is looking at options for alcohol management plans, Fitzroy Crossing looks to have quite a comprehensive one.
    And please do NOT lobby the NTG to buy back the Northside liquor license. Rather lobby the NTG to stop take-away sales on Sundays and to open controlled canteens on select communities so we can all get a good night’s sleep.

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  10. John Reid
    Posted May 30, 2012 at 11:19 am

    Salutations!
    When I first raised the Port Augusta Social Vision and Action Plan as the cornerstone of my campaign for election to the Alice Springs Town Council, it was done to highlight the inclusive approach that was needed in Alice Springs to deal with the complex and confronting social issues afflicting this town. The underlying philosophy of such an approach is something that needs to be incorporated into the psyche (thought processes) and everyday activities of people who currently operate within the frontline service contexts, as well as policy makers, and others, such as business owners.
    While the Port Augusta Social Vision and Action Plan maybe an aspirational model to be used as a reference point for the ASTC in their quest to reform the social and economic problematics of the region, let’s not devalue what we currently have; which is the Alice Springs Community Action Plan, and the Alice Springs Transformation Plan. Let us first give both of these inclusive and collaborative approaches, contrived of by the 3 tiers of government, and many other relevant stakeholders, some oxygen, just let them breathe for a while. Then maybe think about evaluating their performances, rather than spending big money on evaluating the policies and practices of some other municipal jurisdiction.
    Therefore, what I suggest is that the ASTC first needs to consider is developing and adopting the philosophy and practice of social inclusion, which then needs to be integrated into, and across every aspect of the Councils other policies, operations and every day activities. As it is the foundation of the principles of social capital, economic and social wellbeing; I thereby maintain it worthy of further research and analysis by those elected leaders of the ASTC. If you show leadership on this issue, it will be a very positive step in the right direction and can become the catalyst for further community discussion and debate, all aimed at further educating all of us of its worthy virtues. Maybe a public forum is needed to talk about social inclusion and how it can be used positively to deal with the problematic social and economic realities of the town. Also when people start embracing this discourse of inclusion we can begin to develop a cooperative and systematic approach to rationalising the number of agencies that operate across the spectrum of welfare, and social services that operate in the area; a peak body such as the ASTC can again take leadership on this matter, because the left hand needs to know what the right hand is doing, for the sake of the recipients of these services.
    Anyway, that’s my lot. Remember “if you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything”.

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  11. Goddess of Northside
    Posted May 30, 2012 at 11:07 am

    Reality seems to have hit quite early in the piece. Don’t let those bureaucrats get to you too, Cr Brown – they can be very convincing 🙂
    I suggest you drop the Pt Augusta model and study the NSW model – more innovative education connected with family so all can benefit from learning.
    And please lobby for NTG to buy back the Northside liquor license so we can get some sleep at night. It will be cheaper than fly-in / fly-out police coinciding with election times.

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  12. Russell Guy
    Posted May 30, 2012 at 9:35 am

    It looks to me like Cr Brown has dropped the ball on this. His voluminous post in response to the Tourism bureaucracy is another indicator that the man has plenty to say, but the old “can do” is mixed up in his political posturing.
    It’s the same old story that so many of us know too well. Nothing ever changes with this kind of mentality, e.g., the grog debate. All talk, no action. Sit Down money for consultants and councillors. What happened to Cr Melky’s talk of a debate over alcohol policy?
    What about jobs for the blackfellas in tourism? Cr Brown proposes Haasts Bluff, Mt Leibig, Papunya, but we need more than words. Start with welfare reform and the hunger motive might make whitefeller tourism attractive – just kidding.
    You’ll have to reinvent the wheel to get Indigenous tourism turning after the past 40 years of A Town Like Alice.
    Perhaps that’s what’s really needed, but I can’t see bureaucrats sitting down to billy tea with a mob of black cockatoos when the barista’s in town with the gas heater and telly. No electricity out there for the laptop / email, only solar panels.

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  13. Hal Duell
    Posted May 30, 2012 at 2:10 am

    I worry that Crs Brown and Martin are about to be ensnared in the warm fuzz of bureaucratic overspeak. I hope not, but the danger that the inertia of bureaucracy will once again trump the impetus of election is apparent.

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