The Central Australian Aboriginal Congress has joined growing concerns about the looming end to Alcohol Protected Areas in the Northern Territory.
Clause s118 of the Stronger Futures act will take effect July 16 this year, potentially resulting in NT communities losing the ability to keep alcohol out.
CAAC executive officer Donna Ah Chee said this would undo years of good work.
“Since the Northern Territory Government’s alcohol reforms of 2018, we have made really good progress on reducing alcohol-related harm in Alice Springs, and the introduction of the full-time police auxiliary liquor inspectors at bottle shops has been a big part of this,” she said.
“A thorough consultation process should take place, community by community including town camps, across the Northern Territory.
“If a place decides they want to opt-out after being consulted, they should be allowed to do so.”
Ms Ah Chee’s comments come after the NT’s peak Aboriginal medical, housing and justice bodies called for the bill to be withdrawn and for the NT government to amend the Liquor Act.
Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT executive officer John Patterson said consultation for the proposed change should have begun by now.
“There has been no proper consultation, and there simply cannot be any in the short time available,” he said.
“Aboriginal health organisations and peak bodies did not know about the Bill.
“This Government has introduced many excellent alcohol reforms, and this sudden and puzzling change is a backward step that has not been explained properly to anyone.
“Why not move to an opt-out system instead which would ensure all communities make an active decision about what they want to do rather than simply have the current protections taken away.”
NT Alcohol Policy Minister Natasha Fyles said the proposed Bill would eradicate the last remnants of the Intervention.
“The Territory Labor Government will not be continuing the Intervention,” he said.
“Our Bill provides communities with a choice to decide what is best for their community and we will continue to support them in making that choice.
“The Department of the Chief Minister and Cabinet… has been engaging with and will continue consultations with stakeholder groups on whether they wish to opt-in to restrictions and their alcohol aspirations moving forward.”
Northern Australia Aboriginal Justice Agency executive officer Pricilla Atkins said the reform risked opening the booze floodgates to remote communities through outstations and town camps.
“Some of these communities are very close to larger, historically ‘dry’ communities – Ntaria/Hermannsburg for example,” she said.
“It’s as clear as day that alcohol will end up all over the place.”
This legislation will expire on July 16 and APA communities will have to apply to stay alcohol-free.