ALICE SPRINGS NEWS,
August 6, 1997
SUPPORT GROWING FOR RESTRICTIONS ON ALCOHOL SALES
Nearly half of 240 local businesses and groups asked by the People's
Alcohol Action Coalition (PAAC) to support its call for restriction on
alcohol sales have thrown their weight behind such a measure.
To date 94 letters of support, with 115 signatures, have come from
retail outlets, banks, the hospitality industry, a range of other
businesses scattered throughout the CBD and the industrial area,
professional associations and trade unions, churches, both private and
public health and legal services, Aboriginal organisations and
Government departments, both Commonwealth and Territory.
"At one takeaway food outlet every member of staff signed the letter,"
says PAAC's Barbara Curr.
PAAC, which is expecting more replies, is seeking to counter a petition
in November last year signed by some 5500 people opposed to
Liquor Commissioner Peter Allen said at the time that the answers to
alcohol problems "lie well beyond restrictions and more in education
and self-management, both by individuals and by communities."
However, the commission could possibly go further "if that's the desire
of the community and the community are right behind the commission in
seeking to solve these problems."
(Alice News, November 27, 1996.)
Says Ms Curr: "If we had an outbreak of the clap as bad as our epidemic
of alcohol abuse the whole town would be quarantined.
"How do we do something about the grog strife in our town without
people drinking less?"
The coalition is working steadily on garnering community support for a
six month trial which would ban takeaway liquor sales on Thursdays and
Sundays as well as front bar sales on Thursdays, similar to Tennant
PAAC has also made a presentation to a recent meeting of the town
council's Health and Community Services Committee, asking for the Mayor
and aldermen to show leadership on this issue.
"If the town council comes behind a submission to introduce trial
restrictions, the Liquor Commission could no longer deny that the trial
has community support," says Ms Curr.
However, the council does not appear to be in a hurry to make a stand.
The council decided in February to formulate a policy on alcohol use
It still hasn't done so.
Consideration by the Health and Community Services Committee of a draft
alcohol policy by Ald.
Meredith Campbell was deferred on June 23 and again on July 22. It is
now due to be discussed on August 19.
Meanwhile, Bob Vigar, seeking to form a "focus committee" under a town
council banner, which would bring together the many different groups
working on alcohol issues, will make his presentation to council in
The restrictions proposed by PAAC would be evaluated after six months.
The group says according to the Menzies School of Health Research,
restrictions in Tennant Creek led to less alcohol-related disruptive
behaviour, less violence, especially towards women, and a reduction in
absenteeism from work.
They also claim that initial figures following restrictions at Curtin
Springs Roadhouse show "a dramatic reduction in alcohol-related
"People who are against restrictions say they won't work, that people
will simply stock up or travel further to buy their grog," says Ms
"We actually don't claim that restrictions will impact on individual
"We argue that they will bring a degree of respite, especially to
families affected by drinking - a chance to get the groceries, to have
a quiet night.
"How about we reward the non-drinkers, look after their interests for
"Drinkers can get a warm bed and cooked meal any night of the week,
ultimately they can get a triple by-pass if needs be, but the
grandmother, looking after a dozen children because their parents are
drinking, what support does she get?
"The restrictions would also model moderation on a community-wide
"Medical research on safe drinking levels recommends two days' respite
"We are not pushing for more than that.
"Being a vibrant, healthy town that drinks only in moderation is
something to aspire to.
"Why not celebrate our grog-free days with, say, a disco on the
"The one area that hasn't yet been addressed by the Living with Alcohol
strategy is our drinking culture.
"Changing the culture requires leadership, vision and courage but if we
don't do it, what have we got to look forward to?
"We'll become a nasty little town that no one wants to visit, where the
residents who are left wait in fear for someone to hit them over the
head, and where the four year olds start sniffing petrol!
"We don't need a lot of money to make this change, we need a change of
heart, some determination to explore the possibilities."
SINCE THE DAYS OF FORMER CHIEF MINISTER MARSHALL
PERRON, THE GROG SCENE HAS GOTTEN WORSE - MUCH WORSE!
When Marshall Perron, then Chief Minister, launched the Living With
Alcohol strategy in 1991, he spoke of it as "a major attack on the
Territory's alcohol culture".
Mr Perron said: "We owe our children a better society - and to do that
we must overcome our biggest problem.
"Alcohol abuse invades almost every aspect of Territory life, keeping
our gaols and hospitals full, destroying lives and innocent families,
wasting resources which could be far better utilised elsewhere.
"It's time to say enough is enough - and mean it."
It's been said in Tennant Creek, at Curtin Springs and, in neighbouring
states, at Coober Pedy and Halls Creek.
When will Alice Springs say enough is enough? Police statistics dealing
with Alice Springs over a three year sample period (1994 - 1997) show:
´ assaults increased by 28 per cent, with alcohol influence
increasing by 83 per cent;
´ sexual assault decreased by 31 per cent, but the
alcohol-related element increased by 22 per cent;
´ criminal damage increased by 0.7 per cent, while the influence
of alcohol in that category of crime increased by 40 per cent;
´ unlawful entry decreased by 26 per cent, however the
alcohol-related element increased by 41 per cent;
´ stealing decreased by 10 per cent but the alcohol element
remained the same.
Overall, the offence rate increased by three per cent while the
incidence of alcohol related offences increased by 51 per cent!
Research into the drinking behaviour of young people in Alice Springs
shows that 19 per cent of 12 year olds have had an alcoholic drink
within the last month, with 11 per cent having had a drink within the
By the time they're 15 years old, half have had a drink within the
month, with 36 per cent within the week.
By this age they have also moved to a strong preference for spirits and
Spirits are the drink of preference for non-student drinkers aged 16 to
20 years, with well over half the people of these ages having had a
drink within the last week.
Again in this age group, eight out of 10 drinkers have been binge
drinking and about half of them had done so on more than a couple of
Around half of them also confirm that they feel better about themselves
when they've had a few drinks.
This is in contrast to 16 and 17 year old students, where 18 and 15 per
cent respectively agree with this statement.
Significant percentages of the non-students report having been in
trouble as a result of their drinking (as high as 76 per cent of 18 to
20 year olds).
The most common types of trouble are fights and arguments (41 per cent
each), loss of self control (21 per cent), drink driving (18 per cent)
and other police attention (24 per cent), unsafe sex (21 per cent), use
of other drugs (14 per cent) and being late for work (11 per cent).
This research was presented in a paper by Ian Crundall, Research and
Evaluation Coordinator of the Living With Alcohol Program, to the 1994
AGM of the Drug and Alcohol Services Association (DASA).
Reflecting on how to minimise alcohol harm to young people, Dr Crundall
said: "Any interventions with young people cannot be expected to
succeed if they are targeted in isolation from other sections of the
He also pointed to the important role of parents, with some two thirds
of student drinkers under 16 years of age reporting that they had their
last drink with their parents.
PRISONERS KEPT IDLE TO PROTECT PRIVATE ENTERPRISE,
Correctional services authorities have cancelled work programs in the
new Alice gaol because of pressure from private enterprise, according
to the prison officers' union representative, Mark Wheeler.
He says after a meeting with Prison Officers Association members last
week that the manufacturing of wooden roof trusses in the new Alice
gaol has been stopped.
Suggestions from prison officers to occupy inmates with work in the
mechanical workshop have been rejected.
Mr Wheeler says prison "management" has told the officers the gaol must
not "compete against private enterprise".
The result, according to Mr Wheeler, is that inmates become bored and
That, combined with staff shortages necessitating confinement in their
cells for long periods, sparked off last month's incidents - still
denied by Correctional Services Minister Steve Hatton (News, July 30).
The News has since learned from prison sources that windows were
damaged in "L" and "M" Blocks during the disturbances.
The windows are made from unbreakable plastic sheets which were popped
out of their frames.
Mr Wheeler, who is also the Territory Labor candidate for MacDonnell,
says prison officers have rejected a pay rise offer of seven per cent
over two years.
"It's now back to the negotiating table," he says, with industrial
action not ruled out.
Mr Wheeler says last week's meeting, attended by 49 of the 80 local
members, carried resolutions to -
´ condemn the NT Government for closing down prison industries
while promising the public to expand them;
´ reject moves to privatise the escorting of prisoners, most
likely by "lowly paid" employees of the "unregulated" security
industry, exposing the public to grave risks;
´ to decline to "trade away hard earned and well deserved working
conditions to compensate for past bad decisions of Correctional
Mr Wheeler says the Alice prison staff is 34 short.
"People work long hours and there is more stress," he says.
"They're slowly getting to the end of their tether."
BEHAVING 'ANTI-SOCIALLY': A VIEW FROM THE INSIDE.
Book Review by KIERAN FINNANE.
"Children roaming the streets at night should be at home with their
It's a truism, heard frequently and publicly in Alice Springs, but it
overlooks the fact that "home with their families" might not be a very
good place for the children to be, that their families may be urgently
in need of help.
In her book Grog War, set in Tennant Creek, leading determined efforts
to reduce harm caused by alcohol, Alice author Alexis Wright takes the
reader on a nocturnal rampage by some young Warumungu children.
They are the sons of Lucas and Devine, Wright's fictional Warumungu
The material used in developing this fiction came from Wright's contact
with many Warumungu families who told her about how grog impacted on
They asked her to "use their stories in a fictional way because they
preferred not to be identified in the book ... to bravely speak out
about how their lives are affected by economic interests in small
towns, such as by grog, only invites trouble for the individual who
took the risk," she writes.
Lucas' drunken protest in the middle of Tennant's main street, against
all that the grog and what lead him to it has done to him and his
family, ends with him being hit by a panel van (see last week's Alice
When we again meet his family, towards the end of the book, Lucas is
living in a rehab centre, where he had chosen to go rather than to
He is off the grog and determined to restore his life to some order but
his relationships with his family have all but broken down.
Devine remembers him "more for what he could have done than what he
actually did. She thought he had gone all strange now. Hardly felt she
even knew him anymore."
Devine's later life is not graced by "fond memories".
Her memories are scarifying.
We don't know exactly how but the grog had killed her only daughter:
"... nobody could help her get her daughter back.
Only in dreams she saw her now but only her damaged broken body crying
out to her. Lucas was all right. He covered up his pain with grog.
He didn't suffer so Devine turned to grog too."
Waking up to a hangover in her miserable hut where dogs are scavenging
for food, Devine remembers another painful separation, this time from
the family's animals - their dogs, cats and chooks.
All the animals are slaughtered during a "KKK scare" - not decades ago,
but in 1992!
Aboriginal families had fled their bush camps for the "protection" of
town, but they had to leave their animals behind.
When they returned a few days later they found only "corpses shot,
twisted, cut and smashed" lying everywhere.
So this is the home Garth and Lacy, "primary school boys who hardly
went to school", stay away from, mostly with their non-drinking aunt,
But she has kids of her own to look after and is often in a bad temper.
So they hang around town, where they see their mother sitting in the
empty front bar.
"They set about winding each other up with all of the items in their
life that made them angry. It was a game who could get the angriest.
There was plenty of fuel. Family members. School. Friends. White
people. Shop owners. Cops. Nothing to do. Having no money. Having
Never having anything. It was like a competition."
This is the start of a rampage that lasts into the night, with other
boys joining in.
They finally break into a bowling club, where Garth takes over the bar,
initially serving up soft drinks but inevitably trying the "hard
This lead to another "binge" of destruction: the bowling club is
completely trashed before sanity hits.
They escape but later the police catch up with them.
When the police take them away, whatever grip Devine had on life is
Wright concludes with sad hope: "There are support mechanisms in the
Aboriginal community to help people [like this family].
If they can get there in time when there are so many who need the same
kind of intensive support. If their meagre resources can create the
safety net strong enough to hold [them].
When there are other people around more than willing to cut holes in
Grog War is a "no holds barred" book giving a unique glimpse into lives
shattered by grog, an understanding of which has powered Tennant
Creek's fight and should surely power our own.
PARENTS TO GET LITTLE SAY AS NEW EDUCATION MINISTER
School councils will not play a formal role in performance assessment
of principals and other staff because "this would be beyond the
provisions of the Education Act", says Peter Adamson, recently
appointed NT Minister for Education and Training.
However, Mr Adamson, responding to questions put by the Alice News
about his newly acquired responsibilities, says that he will be talking
to councils to see "if they believe there is a problem in this area".
Performance criteria for principals who have recently taken up four
year, six-figue contracts are still being negotiated.
Under the contracts the principals, similar to other senior public
servants, are accountable primarily to their supervisors, the regional
However, Ken Davies, president of the NT Principals' Association, told
the News on June 18, that in his view " the superintendents would see
an obvious role for school councils in this process."
Now it seems that they won't, but in any case perhaps this role is not
in great demand, even though school councils have input into a
principal's duty statement and are represented on selection panels.
Steve Carter, president of the Council of Government School
Organisations (COGSO), says performance assessment of principals and
staff is "clearly between the employer and employee" and "school
councils are not the employers."
He says: "School councils should encourage individual parents to
express any concerns they have to the principal, in short, to support
Mr Adamson also expects to receive feedback on the issue of training
for school councils, although he understands "excellent training and
support" is provided by the Parent Liaison Officer, the Parents as
Partners Policy, organisations such as COGSO, school principals and
While Mr Carter acknowledges the training and support that does exist,
he says "there is not enough of it and non-urban schools have
restricted access due to their location".
The COGSO annual conference in May identified training for school
councils as an issue. Since then, a training focus group has undertaken
a survey of school councils to further identify their training needs.
The results will be reported back to the department.
Mr Adamson told the News that he strongly believes that a partnership
involving parents, staff and the department is "the only way to go", a
statement welcomed by the COGSO president.
"Few initiatives will be successful unless they have the support of all
the partners," says Mr Adamson.
Territory Labor is also committed to partnership and would be willing
to see school councils have "some of the levers in their hands," says
Shadow Minister for Education Peter Toyne.
"If the Minister supports partnership, then he has to be serious about
local autonomy." However, there need to be some moderating mechanisms,
he says, to ensure continuity and to safeguard against extremes of
Mr Adamson believes choice for Territory parents should be enhanced
through the continued development of non-government schools.
Mr Carter comments: "This ïcontinued development' should not occur
at the expense of government schools.
"Government schools should themselves be further developed to
accommodate choices," says Mr Carter.
The new Minister says he has been prepared for the responsibilities of
his portfolio by the educational interests of his constituents in
Casuarina, "with its excellent educational facilities", by his
background in journalism and by his fiance who is a high school
He says an "outcomes culture" has to be the feature of the Territory's
approach to education.
On the basis of limited comparison tools, he says outcomes for
Territory students "stack up well" against other states, "although we
need to take account of the significant Aboriginal student population
when looking at our position".
The Minister says: "Comparison between systems is difficult at present
as we have no directly comparable student assessment methods on a
"I understand that we may be moving to establish such methodology in
Mr Toyne comments that unless tools for improving outcomes are
understood and "owned" by the school and the community, they become a
"dead hand" on the education process.
NEXT WEEK: School staffing, truancy and Aboriginal education - where
are we headed?
ED - Kieran Finnane is the COGSO Southern Region secretary.
FOOTY IS THE REAL WINNER AS AUSSIE RULES CELEBRATES
The Central Australian Football League celebrated its 50th year in
appropriate style at Traeger Park on Sunday.
As CAFL guests, the Cairns Football League accepted the challenge of a
The last representative match of this type was played by the local lads
over a decade ago, and so it had special meaning for the squad of Under
Added to this the AFL clubs did not miss the opportunity to witness the
display and had their talent scouts in the crowd. For the hundreds of
ex CAFL players and officials who returned to town for the festivities,
it was a chance to judge the talent of the present generation.
Fittingly the game was played in a manner and at a level that did
Central Australia proud.
The first half was one of pressure: players from both sides came to
grips with the higher standard of play compared with the usual club
matches, and the need to lift to a higher skill level in order to
Alice Springs' 15 year old Shaun Angeles and young Fred Campbell rose
to occasion with invaluable support from captain Graeme Smith and the
big men Shaun Cusack, Craig Turner and Nigel Lockyer.
The Centralians kept with the Cairns opposition both in the air and on
the ground. Cairns certainly looked ominous, with Geoff Pemberton
playing a champion game and 18 year olds Geoff Clarke and Ben Ryan
At the half time break the score was all tied up with Alice Springs 6.9
(45) to Cairns 7.3 (45).
Joint coaches Roy Arbon and Lance White were unruffled by the situation
and kept their charges focussed for the critical third term.
In keeping to their game plan, the Centralians were able to score four
goals to one in this quarter and gain a psychological edge. The
influence of small men Kelvin Maher and Ian Taylor became more
pronounced as the Centralian big men created opportunities.
In the last stanza, fresh legs prevailed and the late appearance by
Clarrie Greene injected extra zap in the Centralian assault. Thus the
locals were able to produce a six goal burst compared to Cairns' three,
and complete the victory 16.17 (113) to 11.9 (75).
The best player award went to Centralian captain Graeme Smith, who was
always there when the situation required his experience, and his five
goals proved invaluable.
Nigel Lockyer was included to counter the expected height advantage of
the North Queens-landers, and he proved to be a real asset around the
Craig Turner continued his great form and was particularly dominant in
the second half. Trevor Dhu gave the game his all and rebounded
defensive action into attack.
And Fred Campbell with Kelvin Maher picked up touches all over the
For Cairns, Geoff Pemberton played an outstanding game and he was well
supported by Geoff Clarke, Kristian Nyko and Francis Tatipata.
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