Mercilessly enforcing rules against drunks, thieves, deadbeats

I grew up when Central Australia was still a pretty wild place. The homestead at White Gums, because of very rough roads, was an hour’s drive from town.

 

It was situated just off the walking track, or “Blackfeller Pad” as it was then known, between the town and all the places to the west (yes, people walked in those days).

 

Aboriginal people came through on a regular basis, either walking or by camel. They would always stop into the house for water, flour, sugar, tea, matches and rubbin’ medicine.

 

Some would stay for a while and hunt or work when it was available, then they would move on as the roos became scarce from hunting.

 

As a child I admired them, played with the children, wished I could go hunting with the men but wasn’t allowed. It never once occurred to me that somehow these people were less than me. Nor would it occur to me that somehow I was born with a right to decide for them, because they were somehow less capable than me.

 

When I left home at sixteen and took up an apprenticeship in town I had the very great fortune to be assigned to a man of Aboriginal origin with a fabulous sense of humour. He could tell stories all day long. He taught me everything I know. He became a close friend and mentor. Never once did I think of him as an equal because I knew with great certainty that he was far more capable than I.

 

As I grew older and had a family of my own, kids of Aboriginal origin came home as school friends or we met on the sporting fields where I can say with absolute certainty that I was never given reason to doubt their equality, but often had plenty of reason to doubt my own.

 

Today in the workplace I encounter many dashing young men and women of Aboriginal origin who are successful, hard working, paying off their cars and mortgages, battling their way through life often with a good deal more success than I have had.

 

I have never been given a reason to doubt their equality, let alone to presume some kind of superiority. Yet when I come to some of the comments within this publication and in many others I encounter a constant line of commentary from people who don’t appear to be of any remarkable achievement themselves, assuming and trying to assert some kind of superiority over Aboriginal people.

 

They are making the astoundingly pompous and patronising assumptions that they are somehow superior and because of that superiority it is their right to separate Aboriginal people out of the general population, to apologise for them and to make special rules and distinctions for them, particularly when it comes to alcohol.

 

I know these attempts are often well meaning but they are arrogant and paternal beyond belief. They are also deeply hurtful, soul destroying, destructive and isolating, particularly to young people trying to find their place in the world.

 

The inevitable effects of these words and actions are to exacerbate the issues with which they were meant to deal. As a society we have to move beyond this kind of approach. Put paternalism away, always assume equality. See people not by skin colour, and the issue which we have to deal with will take on a whole new light.

 

Deal with issues as you would deal with your own! Never give way to cringing apologists! For they are the true and destructive face of racism!

 

Alice Springs has a population of about 29,000. The surrounding communities support another 15,000, a big portion being Aboriginal. The problem on our streets is tiny when compared to these numbers. The highest and shrinking estimate for problem drinkers is around 400.

 

It’s time we started to focus our care and attention on the 43,600 who are not, protecting them from those who are. We need to do this by mercilessly enforcing society’s rules against this kind of disruption. Just because most those behaving in this way are of Aboriginal extraction doesn’t mean it’s an “Aboriginal” problem as such, any more than a few drunken whites at a party don’t mean it’s an overall white problem.

 

These people are drunks, malingerers, thieves, deadbeats and worse. Their colour is irrelevant and it should continue to be seen as irrelevant in our dealings with their misbehaviour.

 

Bear in mind that a very big percentage of the lives they are disrupting, putting at risk, are Aboriginal lives. Nobody suffers more at the hands of these people. Our community must make rules and enforce them in the interest of supporting, encouraging and providing incentives for those who try to do it the right way!

 

The rest have a choice: measure up or spend the rest of your lives in and out of jail. Suggestions that we do otherwise are shortsighted and will simply lead to ever plummeting level of expectation and behaviour, taking along with it our community’s vibrancy and zest for life.

 

It’s like filling up all your hotel motel accommodation with welfare workers and renal patients, then wondering why your tourist dollar has dropped and your local economy appears to be in tatters, reliant on the welfare dollar.

 

It’s called dumbing down your economy. If we focus on drunks, apologise for them, change our rules to suit them, then we will become what we have focused on, a community for drunks!

 

Focus on achievement, on incentive, on those large numbers of Centralians doing the right thing, you will see us become an inclusive, happy, bustling, prosperous community with a private sector economy, filling our hotels with tourists! It’s all about the focus! Sadly comments herein suggest many may still be focused in the wrong direction.

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17 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 May 10, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    @ Steve Brown.
    I can agree with you on certain points here, Steve. You don’t flinch at taking on complexity and I like that.
    There is a difference between “Cultural Appropriateness” and cultural appropriation. Institutionalised racism plays its part, but I agree that people are people and despite our cultural differences, we all have some things in common.
    Culture is often where they are identified.
    I agree that multi-culturalism should cohere to Australian law, but in the UK, Sharia law is considered to be encroaching by stealth, so I can’t agree that society should avoid cultural appropriateness.
    There is a need for this to be debated in open forums where those things which we share in common can be agreed and are not infringed.
    I do agree that some toes will be tread upon, however, a peaceful co-existence by non-violent protest is under threat in many places and in some cases, is centred on religious beliefs.
    When you say that alcohol and drug abuse are enormously exacerbated by issues such as social isolation, I agree, as I do with your statement that human beings are social animals and when they feel isolated, disrespected, not recognised as equals in the group there is generally a corresponding effect on mental health.
    Where you say that in order to deal with alcohol and drug abuse we must deal with the issues of inequality, paternalism and bare faced racism that are the true source of so much pain and abuse, I also agree.
    However, as each of these are complex issues, let us debate how you would deal with just one of these, e.g., do you agree that in order to deal with alcohol-abuse, we re-introduce the Banned Drinker’s Register as a means of identifying those who cannot control their alcoholism without government intervention?
    The BDR was endorsed by police at the time. In terms of alcohol-related domestic violence and FASD, it seems a worthy instrument in reducing pain and self-harm, so that intra and inter cultural equality may be better achieved.
    At present, alcoholism is observable as helping to form a poor, perhaps racist, opinion of others. As a community, we need to come to terms with it and not just leave it to the industry to self-regulate.

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  2. Steve Brown
    Posted May 10, 2014 at 10:26 am

    @ Robin Henry: I forget no such thing “Cultural Appropriateness”, as I am sure you are well aware – hence your comment. It is an often used, perhaps even the most often used, justification for exactly what I’m talking about, institutionalised racism. People are people. We all have culture of one form or another. Society must assure that all cultures are recognised and tolerated equally, when of course they fit within the boundaries of Australian law and when they don’t interfere with another individuals cultural sensitivities, where practical.
    Which raises the immediately obvious point that such multi cultural recognition is quite often not practical without treading on someone else’s culture. Therefore as a society we should avoid cultural appropriateness and treat every individual equally and leave their culture to them much like we do with religion
    @ Albert: You lost me there, Albert. May I respectfully suggest to you that it’s not a particularly great idea to base your life beliefs and most importantly solutions on works of fiction. The real world tends to be … well, real. It requires real life solutions not fantasies. Alcohol and drug abuse are enormously exacerbated by issues such as social isolation. Human beings are social animals and when they feel isolated, disrespected, not recognised as equals in the group there is generally a corresponding effect on mental health.
    Therefore, Albert, there is no L Ron Hubbard style rocket science required in reaching a logical conclusion that in order to deal with alcohol and drug abuse we must begin at the beginning and deal with the issues of inequality, paternalism and bare faced racism that are the true source of so much pain and abuse.
    @ Paul: Yeh. Exactly!

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  3. Paul Parker
    Posted May 9, 2014 at 9:43 am

    Perhaps three rules once taught need to be posted until remembered:
    Rule 1. Drink as much as you like, but do NOT get drunk.
    Rule 2. When drinking alcohol do NOT draw attention to yourself, watch your behaviour, your dress, particularly those sounds from your mouth.
    Rule 3. IF ignore the first two, then accept the consequences.

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  4. Posted May 8, 2014 at 10:57 am

    @4: Institutionalized racism is aided and abetted by Australian governments who enact laws and policies that are race-based.
    While active racism is OK for governments, it’s frowned upon by others and the contradiction is unhelpful.
    When you say, Steve: “Their colour is irrelevant and it should continue to be seen as irrelevant in our dealings with their misbehaviour” you forget that in every other endeavour we have thrust upon us the concept of “cultural appropriateness”.

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  5. Albert Diano
    Posted May 6, 2014 at 7:07 am

    Dear Steve,
    Just like you I grew up when Central Australia was hard tough place to live. I managed to sit on the river beds with Nelson Panaka, Benjamin Landra and listen to the Aboriginal way of life and watched them paint using water colours, along with many other things I was thought.
    Your comments refer to Aboriginal people who have suffered a devastating impact of Alcoholism and drugs affecting the society around Alice Springs. The contents of your comments, appear to reflect your own weakness and personal issues which are racist motivated. Your comments in my view don’t help resolving the problem, but make things much worse.
    Author, humanitarian Founder L. Ron Hubbard wrote, and I quote: “The planet has hit a barrier which prevents any widespread social progress — drugs and other biochemical substances. These can put people into a condition which not only prohibits and destroys physical health but which can prevent any stable advancement in mental or spiritual well-being.”
    I suggest you read the statement of Ron Hubbard and try to engage the NT Government to make major changes, and focus on solving the problem of alcoholism in around Alice Springs.
    Perhaps then we may see some action to help the people affected, without wasting tax payers money. Try to commence a better help education program for all people of the NT, and not focus the attention on writing comments, which are concealed with racism, and offer no solution to the problem of Alcohol, in around the Alice Springs community.

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  6. Russell Guy
    Posted May 1, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    @ Steve Brown. Posted April 30, 2014 at 5:52 pm
    If you had waited until you had more time, then perhaps you might’ve been better understood, but “institutionalised racism and the disgusting demoralising effect it has on those subject to its insidious variations” might just as well apply to alcohol, even though you deny any association.
    As it is, Bob Durnan’s post includes “excessive dope and alcohol consumption” as a contributing factor, but we’ve been over this ground many times, even at this story and you still don’t get it.
    The rest of your post is about point scoring, e.g., “perpetrators” being “the root cause of social isolation, the sooner they understand and disappear from the commentary in embarrassed shame as they should the sooner the community can get on with the job of healing itself from the ravages of a hundred years of bleeding heart paternalism!”, etc.
    You top it off with reminding me of the obvious and if that’s not patronising, I’ll eat my dictionary.
    I stated the obvious because sometimes it provides a foundation for reasoned debate, but can I say that defensive, back-foot posturing rant has become your reason for being and I don’t say that with any rancor.

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  7. Ian Rennie
    Posted May 1, 2014 at 8:18 am

    One only has to observe the increasing exodus of decent, working, long term residents of the Alice to realise there is a serious problem that does not take any highly paid university graduate to work out the what and why-for.
    And don’t ever think that the pollies are going to really do anything constructive as their long term finances and security are pretty well taken care of.
    Things have happened in the past and will no doubt happen again in the foreseeable future that make the idiots in society realise that they have gone too far.

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  8. Steve Brown
    Posted April 30, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    Just a couple of quick follow up comments. I see youth as a separate issue and was not referring to the recent spate of youth activity on the streets in this comment.
    I agree to some extent with what Bob had to say in his second comment. However the government and John Elferink in particular are working on what appear to be some very exciting concepts for youth and rehabilitation I am very much looking forward to their implementation.
    I am also a little concerned that existing programs may have been extinguished a bit too early given that the new programs are some time away.
    The message I wished to sheet home with the above comment wasn’t about alcohol, it is about institutionalised racism and the disgusting demoralising effect it has on those subject to its insidious variations.
    I want the perpetrators to understand that they are not the answer to the issues around social isolation [including alcohol], they are in fact the root cause of social isolation.
    The sooner they understand that fact and disappear from the commentary in embarrassed shame as they should the sooner the community can get on with the job of healing itself from the ravages of a hundred years of bleeding heart paternalism!
    Russell, the reason that 80% of the issues revolve around Aboriginal people is surprise, surprise, because they are the only ones being discriminated against! Isolated! Excluded! Patronised!

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  9. Russell Guy
    Posted April 30, 2014 at 10:23 am

    @ Interested. Posted 29th April. 11:49am.
    That 80% is Territory-wide and reflected in the prison population. This tells us something. Far from making excuses, Bob Durnan is one who is examining the data and observational experience to try and restore some social balance. It’s not for the faint-hearted.

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  10. Scotty
    Posted April 29, 2014 at 9:59 pm

    To Bob,
    People like yourself always like to make a lot of excuses for the young and old criminals.
    “Bogged down in poverty, unemployment and associated problems, such as intergenerational welfare dependency, and the calamitous rates of illiteracy, excessive alcohol and dope consumption. These conditions almost guarantee the poor health, child neglect, fatalism, anger, frustration, boredom, incarceration and despair which afflict many Aboriginal parents.”
    Like I said, things will never change whilst people like yourself make excuses for criminals (that’s what they are – not victims like you make them out to be).
    Also to your comment “Why not join those who are trying to regain the lost ground in this battle?”
    I am happy to let you know I go to work day / evening / night shifts to do just that.

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  11. Interested
    Posted April 29, 2014 at 11:49 am

    Bob, the problem is 80 percent of the alcohol and violence seems to be caused by Aboriginal people, you can see it. It’s people like yourself that keep making excuses for them. I do agree programs need to be put in place which can help but we can’t continually put money into these if there are no outcomes.

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  12. Hal Duell
    Posted April 29, 2014 at 9:45 am

    What has become apparent since the change of government two years ago is that the CLP has enacted, and is still enacting where they can still find targets, a scorched earth policy toward their predecessors’ social legislation.
    In the place of some good working programs, they have substituted more police. That’s all. They have only the one answer – more police. They are bereft of ideas.
    I mean no disrespect to the NT Police, but you cannot be the only game in town. Just look at the streets. Anyone who says that the street scene now in not worse than it was a couple years ago is pushing an agenda.

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  13. Jackie Baxter
    Posted April 29, 2014 at 8:49 am

    Finally something worth reading. And I agree with everything that is written. All Centralians should be treated the same under laws. Personally I’m sick and tired of people telling me I can’t drink, I can’t buy alcohol and where I can drink. It’s my life, it’s been part of the Australian identity for eons of years and I’m over it. We have too many laws and rules and not enough common sense dictating to us. Keep writing Steve. And to all those people who come here from different places to work and stay for awhile, we don’t need your “poor thing” mentality.

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  14. Bob Durnan
    Posted April 29, 2014 at 1:13 am

    To Scotty again: It sounds like you think that it is only Aboriginal people whose “children are the young criminals in town who are breaking into working people’s houses and causing them to fear walking the streets at night.” I can tell you for certain that this is not the case; but it is true that a disproportionate number of Aboriginal kids get in trouble with the law.
    Although the fact of high rates of Aboriginal juvenile offending is not in any way acceptable, it should also not in any way be surprising, given the extent to which many of their family members are bogged down in poverty, unemployment and associated problems, such as intergenerational welfare dependency, and the calamitous rates of illiteracy, excessive alcohol and dope consumption. These conditions almost guarantee the poor health, child neglect, fatalism, anger, frustration, boredom, incarceration and despair which afflict many Aboriginal parents (in the same way they afflict many non-Aboriginal parents who experience similar afflictions and conditions in places throughout Australia where unemployment and poverty are endemic).
    The really big current worry for Alice Springs is this: what possessed the NT’s Children and Families Minister John Elferink to imagine we as a town could afford to abandon some very good programs that were beginning to make major inroads into the town’s anti-social youth culture (I am referring to the Congress Youth Night Patrol and its late night drop-in centre, the Youth Hub and its case management co-ordination with police and other services, a large whack of the Tangentyere Youth Patrol, and the all-night presence of the specialised Youth Street Outreach Service – aka YSOS – teams on the streets)?
    These services had made real progress in reducing the youth crime and other dysfunctional youth behaviour in the town over the last couple of years, and they were cut down in their prime. It was absolutely predictable that the abolition of these services would lead to an upsurge in the problems that many of us are now seeing and experiencing over the three months since the last of these services (the YSOS) was shut down.
    We can’t afford to just let this happen: the town’s leaders must lobby Elferink to restore funding to this vital safety net for the youth AND for the town, immediately.

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  15. Bob Durnan
    Posted April 29, 2014 at 12:48 am

    Scotty (Posted April 28, 2014 at 1:28 am): Most of the people sitting on the lawns on any given day are in town with their families for medical appointments, shopping or similarly respectable reasons. If some of them have a drink while they are in town, or try to, that is not surprising or wrong, provided they go about it in a socially acceptable fashion (which many do, drinking in bars).
    Nothing will ever change? Well, a number of programs in the past had significant beneficial impacts (notably the Living With Alcohol Program introduced by Marshall Perron in the early nineties, Clare Martin’s reforms of alcohol trading regulations in late 2006, and Paul Henderson’s Enough is Enough package in 2011, which included the Alcohol Tribunal and the Banned drinkers Register). It was disastrous when the High Court ruled that Perron’s program was illegal and that the states and territories didn’t have the power to impose levies; it was even more problematic when the wine industry undermined Martin’s reforms with the introduction of new cheap products (ultra cheap 2 litre casks and cleanskin wines). Finally, the CLP took perhaps the single most stupid, wasteful and destructive decision by any government in the history of the NT when it abolished the Banned Drinkers Register within hours of gaining power in late August 2012.
    But we can learn from the CLP’s mistake, and undo that disaster. Why not join those who are trying to regain the lost ground in this battle?

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  16. Scotty
    Posted April 28, 2014 at 1:28 am

    Well where do I start.
    I wish I could sit on hospital lawn or council lawns all day and get paid for it. How about getting a job and stop expecting the tax payer to look after you.
    Even the so called successful persons (Rogue Member Larisa Lee) charged with aggravated assault and blames it on “It happens all the time in families, my family is larger than most”.
    I have lived in this town for about 20 years now. Nothing will change and all that happens is government wastes money on futile new programs. Waste of time when those designed to be helped are lazy drunks who just want to stay as is.
    you know who I am talking about and their children are the young criminals in town who are breaking into working people’s houses and causing them to fear walking the streets at night.
    The justice system is not tough on them and they act innocent and get away with invading private residences and stealing.
    Wonder if the Magistrates ruled case where their own home got broken into if they would be so lenient. Mark my words, the day is near when they will enter the wrong house and justice will occur.
    Above are comments from employed tax payer who loves this town and is sick of excuses made.

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  17. Russell Guy
    Posted April 27, 2014 at 6:29 pm

    This is a memorable day in the campaign to reduce the amount of pure alcohol in the rivers of grog that flow through our land.
    Steve Brown, who, two years ago, wrote that “writing about alcohol has risen to ridiculous levels”, is now writing regularly about it.
    It is beginning to stir his consciousness, but he still thinks the issue is about equality of “skin colour”, rather than the health of individuals, families and the community.
    While the Alice Springs Alcohol Reference Group has met to decide on what steps to take with an Alcohol Management Plan, other Australian jurisdictions are implementing measures, assessing the alcohol industry in relation to violence and trading hours, different strength beers, shots and in Tennant Creek’s case, the Banned Drinker’s Register.
    Steve still sees the alcohol issue exclusively as one of law and order, i.e., in terms of personal responsibility, as he did when he embarked on his Alice Springs Town Council campaign two years ago. He is still writing much about paternalism and patronising arrogance, however, I’m encouraged that he is now talking statistically, rather than wishing that PAAC and other campaigners would “go away”.
    Welcome to the rivers of grog, Steve. When you arrive at a cost analysis of what alcohol abuse costs the Australian community, hopefully you’ll be staring downhill at the increasing pace of reform.

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