It’s worth noting that the Alice Springs Watchhouse, opened in …

Comment on Briscoe Inquest: reduce supply of excess alcohol from take away outlets, says Coroner by Alex Nelson.

It’s worth noting that the Alice Springs Watchhouse, opened in 1998, was designed and built in response to the findings of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody two decades ago. I understand this fact was mentioned at the Briscoe Inquest.
The statistics for protective custodies (11,115 for Alice Springs in the 12 months to 30 April, 2012) quoted in this inquest mirrors the figures listed by Chief Minister Marshall Perron in his Ministerial Statement on Crime in Alice Springs of May 1990, when he observed that in “recent years” (late 1980s) the number of people taken into protective custody averaged 11,000 annually, which “suggested that half of the population of Alice Springs is found drunk on the streets at least once per year”.
Perron elaborated on these statistics: “The fact is that figures from the Alice Springs Sobering Up Shelter shows that 97 per cent of those admitted in the 12 months to June last year [1989] were Aboriginals: three quarters were male with an average age of 32 years – you can see why Aboriginal women marched against grog in Alice Springs last Saturday.
“129 people were each admitted 10 times or more during the course of the year; and one individual spent 123 nights in protective custody during the same year”.
In 1994 Mayor Andy McNeill stated that over 13,000 people were taken into protective custody in Alice Springs in 1991, which was his last full year as the Southern Region Assistant Commissioner for NT Police.
In regard to “Assistant Commissioner Mark Payne who has over 25 years experience of policing in the NT”, it’s worth being more specific about the length of his career in the NT Police.
Mark Payne was a classmate of mine at the Alice Springs High School in the late 1970s. I don’t know when he joined the NT Police but his career almost certainly stretches back over 30 years by now.
What was the local policing situation like when Mr Payne was a young constable? Well, the Alice Springs Town Council held a public meeting on alcohol abuse on 26 October, 1982, at which it was stated “20 out of every 22 people in the Alice Springs Hospital are admitted for alcohol related problems, according to the chief surgeon Charles Butcher” (“Liquor main illness cause”, Centralian Advocate, 29 October, 1982). This meeting addressed just about every aspect of alcohol availability, hours of sale, licence conditions, education programs, types of crime and all the rest of it that we are still debating today.
Simultaneously the then NT Health Minister Ian Tuxworth announced that “a series of sobering up centres in the Territory would be introduced within 12 months. The shelters will be used to take in drunk people overnight or until they sobered up”.
The Advocate used to have a regular column called Centre Sidelights; and one comment published on 26 May, 1982, is particularly relevant: “Man who came before Magistrate John Murphy in the Alice Springs Court last week was making his 145th appearance in the halls of justice. Of those appearances, 117 were on drink-related charges. Mr Murphy asked if we were concerned enough about what drink is doing to Aboriginal people. It would seem we are not.”

Alex Nelson Also Commented

Briscoe Inquest: reduce supply of excess alcohol from take away outlets, says Coroner
Ray’s comment, Posted September 26, 2012 at 9:29 pm, makes an interesting observation that is echoed from an article published in the Centralian Advocate 30 years ago, which is quoted extensively below:
“Aboriginal deaths caused by alcohol in Alice Springs have reached numbers that frighten police, doctors, coroners and Government Ministers.
“Alcohol as the primary cause of death, in lay man’s terms literally drowning in the stuff, caused just one death last year. However, when one considers secondary causes, more than 100 Aborigines have died as a result of a drunken stupor in the past 18 months.
“The alcohol was consumed mostly in the Todd and Charles River beds.
“Statistics that show blood alcohol contents of up to 0.34 per cent confirm Alice Springs as the worst town in Australia for Aboriginal drink deaths.
“Autopsy records and statistics show the cause of these deaths as loss of blood, smashed skulls and other injuries.
“Sweet sherry, muscat and wine fortified with raw spirits are the real killers.
“All types of grog are consumed in huge amounts and recent restrictions on the amount of one type allowed to be sold seems to make no difference to the death count.
“Some of the men and women who have died as a result of drink have been as young as 25 and to be dead drunk at 35 is not uncommon.
“Port Hedland in Western Australia has about six such deaths a year.
“Alice Springs has the reputation of being the worst town in Australia for the numbers of Aborigines who end up on a slab in the morgue after drinking.
“The Port Hedland hospital serves a town of 17,000 with an Aboriginal population of about 10 per cent in the area [however] the problem was nowhere the size in Port Hedland as it was in Alice Springs.
“The story was much the same in other towns in Australia with substantial numbers of Aboriginal residents.
“Although most did not approach the 25 per cent of Aborigines living in the Centre the proportion of drink deaths was way below that of Alice Springs.
“Bourke in NSW does have a 25 per cent Aboriginal population but only had two drink deaths in the last six months” (“Many die from the grip of the grape”, Centralian Advocate, August 18, 1982).
I’ll leave the final word to Central Australia’s most revered Aboriginal personality, Albert Namatjira, whose observations on this topic reported 60 years ago has proven dreadfully prophetic:
“Albert Namatjira wants full citizenship rights. He believes that some of his people are entitled to it but is frightened at the thought of what would happen if some in the town areas were given their “freedom”.
“They would drink liquor like water,” said the strong featured, quietly spoken artist when asked his views on the subject this week” (“Namatjira wants citizenship rights, Centralian Advocate, October 24, 1952).


Recent Comments by Alex Nelson

Town planning farce: Lawler dodges the hard questions
This encounter instantly reminded me of a passage in George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four” when Winston Smith followed an old man into a pub with the intention of finding out from him what life was like before the revolution that led to the rise of Big Brother.
Yet no matter how earnestly he asked the old man to recall the early years of his life, “Winston had the feeling they were talking at cross-purposes.”
He kept on prodding the old man for information but “a sense of helplessness took hold of Winston. The old man’s memory was nothing but a rubbish-heap of details. One could question him all day without getting any real information.”
Plying the old man with beer, he tried one more time but failed: “Winston sat back against the window sill. It was no use going on. He was about to buy some more beer when the old man suddenly got up and shuffled rapidly into the stinking urinal at the side of the room. The extra half-litre was already working on him. Winston sat for a minute or two gazing at his empty glass, and hardly noticed when his feet carried him out into the street again.”
Welcome to the Big Brother reality of honest accountable government in the Northern Territory!


Student boarding funding restored – for now
Isn’t that something? A minister of the NT Government has listened to concerns about a government decision, and reversed it in a day.
Little aggravation, and great relief for many, I should think.
Minister Selena Uibo has set a fine example – now, if only certain others of her colleagues would take notice of public concern about the NT Government’s poor decision-making over the location of the proposed National Aboriginal Art Gallery…


Remains of missing man found near Yambah
@ John Bell (Posted September 20, 2018 at 10:21 pm): The skeleton was identified, a young man only recently arrived in Alice Springs in 1965. It’s believed he was a victim of an accidental discharge of his rifle, not a suicide.


Ring a bell?
Is it just me, or is it the case that the “Boundless Possible” embarrassment has suffered a swift death, consigned quietly to the wheelie bin of history?
Ah yes, a government elected into office that promised us all greater standards of honesty and accountability; but no, it’s just business as usual, that we’ve long endured for decades in the Northern Territory.
It really makes no difference who’s in charge.


Four dogs suspected poisoned with 1080
@ Ruth Weston (Posted September 7, 2018 at 1:08 pm): Sodium fluoroacetate is the commercially produced 1080 poison, and is closely related to potassium fluoroacetate, the poisonous chemical found in a wide variety of plant species.
Both chemicals have the same effect, disrupting the Krebs Cycle (or Citric Acid Cycle) which disrupts the ability of cells to metabolise carbohydrates, fats and proteins for energy production.
It was biochemist Ray Murray, based in Alice Springs with the Animal Industry Branch from 1954 to 1966, who first identified the naturally occurring 1080-based compound that occurs sporadically in poison Gidgee (Acacia georginae) which plagued the beef cattle industry in the east of Central Australia and across the Queensland border.


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