Mills says secret ballots may be the best way for bush communities to decide on alcohol

Chief Minister Terry Mills is in Alice Springs for the Country Liberal Party annual conference. ERWIN CHLANDA asked him to comment on three issues.

KILGARIFF: Given that the suburb is being built on land that is owned by the public, is there a good case for blocks – at least some – to be sold for the cost of developing them, around $70,000, although residential real estate currently costs up to five times as much?

ALCOHOL IN REMOTE COMMUNITIES: Given that the weaker people in bush communities may come under pressure from the more powerful, should there be secret ballots to decide whether alcohol should be allowed?
There is confusion about MANDATORY REHAB: Is it a criminal or medical measure?

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7 Comments (starting with the most recent)

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  1. Russell Guy
    Posted November 13, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    Steve Brown @ Nov 11.

    “I’m not sure what I could say that would help you understand Russell that the price of Alcohol or its availability makes absolutely no difference to people who are prepared to travel hundreds of kilometers to get it.”

    Is your post-loquacious silence in relation to my invitation to comment on the Age story evidence that you’re not sure what to say, Steve?

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  2. Leigh Childs
    Posted November 12, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    Russell, this article [of November 12th] totally backs up my call for Steve to consult with the women in the town camps as to the effect to themselves and their children of relaxing restrictions on alcohol consumption.
    As Dr Stone says: “But you have to ask who are those consultations with. Are they with the men or the women.”
    Steve, it doesn’t matter if the women you encounter out bush are strong and fiesty, in their culture they have little or no say.
    I repeat, please consult with the women before you start turning the alcohol taps on more and more.
    More alcohol, more FASD, more rapes, more murders, more child and infant rapes, more suicides, more hospital admissions, more social dysfunction and less food on the table.

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  3. Russell Guy
    Posted November 12, 2012 at 9:52 am

    @ Steve Brown on Armistice Day.

    Perhaps, you could offer your comment on this story from today’s Age. “We as a community owe it to the unborn children to minimise the damage that will be done if we don’t act”: Dr Sharman Stone, chairwomen of parliamentarians for the prevention of FASD.

    THE nation’s first comprehensive study of the impact of excessive drinking on unborn Aboriginal children has revealed devastating rates of intellectual disability.
    The study, conducted in Western Australia’s Kimberley region, found that half of babies there are born with disabilities from foetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
    The research, undertaken by the Lililwan Project, found that one in two Aboriginal children attending school in the region’s Fitzroy Valley has the disorder, a condition that ranges in severity from severe learning and behavioural problems to acute intellectual impairment.
    The study has stunned policymakers in Canberra and carries massive implications for the Northern Territory and Queensland governments, which plan to deregulate drinking in Aboriginal communities that had previously decided to be “dry”.
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    It also carries grave implications for the Gillard government’s “Closing the Gap” targets.
    A survey of eight-year-old children and their mothers’ drinking patterns over two years identified much higher rates of the disorder than previously thought, and confirmed what experts have been claiming for years: that excessive alcohol consumption is devastating indigenous communities throughout Australia.
    According to experts who gave evidence to a federal parliamentary inquiry into foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which will report later this month, undiagnosed foetal brain damage is linked to autism, youth suicide, high rates of indigenous incarceration, chronic unemployment and poor education outcomes in Aboriginal communities.
    Federal Liberal MP Sharman Stone, a member of the inquiry, said the rates of alcohol foetal damage on unborn children in indigenous communities were possibly the highest in the world. “Australia lags behind the United States, Canada and Poland in recognising and dealing with the problem,” Dr Stone said.
    “We have a perfect storm occurring in both indigenous and non-indigenous communities. The cheapest alcohol in the history of the country is being sold from more outlets than ever before, combined with a culture of binge drinking among young women and a public culture of acceptance.”
    She said public health authorities should adopt a warning for pregnant women who might consider drinking: “None for nine months.”
    Although the Lililwan study has not been made public, Fairfax understands it has been made available to the federal government and to the parliamentary inquiry. It will be published in the Medical Journal of Australia this month.

    There are 4500 people (80 per cent Aboriginal) living in the Fitzroy Valley – the epicentre of much harmful alcohol abuse. There was a 95 per cent participation rate by parents and children in the study. It examined all children born in 2002-03 and living in the Fitzroy Valley.
    Damage to the foetus caused by alcohol usually occurs in the first trimester before a woman may know she is pregnant. In the most severe cases, victims can experience total cognitive breakdown and memory loss – making learning impossible – and take up high-risk behaviour including self-harm.
    Dr Stone said it was extraordinary that after years of research the federal government had come up with a diagnostics model for detecting the disorder but there was no money available to trial it.
    “[The disorder] is filling jails with young kids who break the law. It is a drain on the health system and to police, and is linked to high incidence of youth suicide and chronic unemployment.”
    Dr Stone, a minister in the Howard government, criticised NT Chief Minister Terry Mills and Queensland Premier Campbell Newman for opening up the issue of drinking in indigenous communities when medical research had established beyond doubt the massive damage done to the unborn by drinking mothers.
    “We as a community owe it to the unborn children to minimise the damage that will be done if we don’t act,” Dr Stone said. “The fact is you can hide any problem in an indigenous community under the claim that consultations are taking place. But you have to ask who are those consultations with. Are they with the men or the women?”
    According to the medical journal The Lancet, the tipping point for the Fitzroy Crossing community came in 2007 when there were 55 deaths, including 13 suicides. Alcohol was a factor in most deaths. But when alcohol restrictions were imposed the behaviour of many did not change, leading to the conclusion that the disorder was rife.
    Dr Stone said it was a mistake to view the disorder as an indigenous problem because it affected all communities in Australia, and all governments had been slow to act.
    Poor labeling laws, the availability of cheap alcohol and a drinking culture that said it was acceptable for pregnant women to have a glass of red each day had created a massive public health problem, she said.
    Dr Janet Woollard, chairwoman of a WA inquiry into the disorder, was shocked by the study’s findings. She said 51 per cent of women continued to drink while pregnant, indicating a major public education program was needed.’

    I would also like to add that this situation is not exclusive to the Kimberley, but exists here in Central Australia.

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  4. Hal Duell
    Posted November 12, 2012 at 8:52 am

    Meanwhile, the following article gives our national grog consumption an important perspective.
    I reckon it, that is our grog consumption, is a bit like climate change in that it is simply too late to not have to deal with consequences already in the pipeline.
    http://www.theage.com.au/national/grog-hits-indigenous-babies-20121111-296hs.html

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  5. Steve Brown
    Posted November 11, 2012 at 8:51 pm

    I’m not sure what I could say that would help you understand Russell that the price of Alcohol or its availability makes absolutely no difference to people who are prepared to travel hundreds of kilometers to get it. To break into your home to get it, to ram raid a pub to get it, and to quite often pay over a hundred dollars a carton of beer on the sly grog market to get it, to give up their homes their children and communities to get it!
    Deliberately raising prices has two effects: it aggravates the hell out of these people and further justifies the “them and us” which in turn justifies their actions against us. The other effect the one you and your mates are continually reading about in the downloaded garbage upon which you base your arguments for a floor price, definitely does have an effect!
    That effect being on the normal working class families of our communities, those that have to balance the budget each week. It means for them that dad has to cut down a little, one less tipple for mum, you think that’s a great health outcome, but is it really? I would argue that except for the few exceptions where alcohol abuse is a problem, that what you are achieving is nothing more than making life a little harder, a little tougher for our struggling families where a beer at the end of the day or week is one of the few luxuries providing enormous mental health benefits.
    Your proposed floor price and availability restrictions Russell is another imposition on people’s lives that will only serve to generate or exacerbate anger, anxiety, mental health issues, rebellion, criminality, dislocation neglect, to further stuff our already full jails. That Russell is no way forward!
    It is in fact a direct route to deepening the awful social disaster that paternalism has already inflicted on the Territory. The way forward Russell is as it is with our entire lives, our very existence on this planet; it’s about “balance” – sensible reasonable trading hours, prices fixed by market forces and in the case of alcohol, rehabilitation, education improving life’s circumstances, giving people a reason to make the right choices on their own accord.
    As for you second point Russell, sure many Aboriginal people are at a disadvantage, so are many others within our society. We don’t deal with this issue in a dehumanising disrespectful manner by presuming that somebody who isn’t educated or can’t speak English or both is somehow stupid! Less than human!
    Not capable of making their own life choices! It is this over protective, paternalistic dehumanising attitude, particularly to Aboriginal people that is the direct cause of nearly all the issues around alcohol abuse, continually reinforcing an all pervading sense of worthlessness.
    The first steps away from this perception are acknowledgement, recognition, respect, as an equal functioning human being in charge of their own life! Therein lies the way forward Russell, not in further stifling protections. Recognise the equality of life! The equality of existence! There is no such thing as equality of circumstance, for any of us! Er Yeh … “Equally”!

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  6. Russell Guy
    Posted November 11, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    @ Steve Brown.
    1. I’m yet to hear you say that there is too much alcohol available at too low a price and that some reduction in supply would go a long way towards easing some of the social problems you continue to write about.
    2. You seem stuck in the belief that it’s a level playing field for black and white. The basic difference between English and first language is enough to render many Indgenous parents at a disadvantage, which flows on to their kids who are the biggest casualties of too much grog in our society.
    I could go on, but would welcome a response to the two points made here.

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  7. Steve Brown
    Posted November 11, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    What about the weaker people indeed! Within that question lays the whole crux of the problem. Who are these weaker people, the ones that we continually patronise with bare faced paternalism? Are we to understand that the weaker souls are those who stay at home, choosing not to join the mayhem on the streets of Alice? I would have thought the reverse to be a more accurate reflection of the true circumstance, those who are weak are on the streets, in the riverbeds, drunk tired and hungry a long way from a home where their families miss their sober presence, while at the same time glad that the trouble they bring with drug and alcohol abuse is being inflicted on the good citizens of Alice Springs rather than on their own communities. How nice for them, how bloody sad for us! We are facing endemic victimhood, dependency, argued so long, loud and often, that many are now of an unshakeable belief that it is quite OK not to take responsibility for your own, someone else is always responsible. It is absolutely OK if some other community takes responsibility for your trouble makers. Yet clearly this mentality of pushing out those who don’t wish to conform to prohibition for a range of reasons is the lead cause of much of the angst in community life, creating dislocation in the community, dislocation of mums dads brothers sisters cousins youngsters rebels attracted to, then trapped in, life on the outer, away from rules and constraints living on the edge, often giving up their lives on the highways in the desperation and heart break wrought by separated families. This in turn produces broken disrupted communities at home with many forgotten neglected children, usually cared for by a struggling grandparent. Community life suffers and often deteriorates to a hard endless grind for the few with the strength to hang in.
    Communities need to be “normalised”! Offering as close to the same range of services and absolutely the same range of living conditions / rules as each other if drinking is legal in our major towns and communities it must also be legal in the smaller ones. Is an Aboriginal lady living in the bush entitled to greater protection than someone living in the town? The answer is quite clearly no! So let’s stop trying to protect some individuals at the expense of others and let’s enforce the rules against bad behaviour equally across the face of the Territory and protect “Everybody” “Equally”!! While we are doing that let’s banish forever the patronising paternalistic belief than one race of people is somehow weaker and more in need of protection than the other. We were all born to the World of the 20/21st Century, let’s all take equal responsibility for living together.

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