Saturday, November 03, 2012

alcohol and aboriginal communities revisited

It's confusing when elected indigenous parliamentarians in the Northern Territory call for a relaxation of alcohol controls while at the same time claiming they understand the issues because many of their close family have died through alcohol abuse. In this case I think Russell Skelton and Noel Pearson have thought it through more clearly. The top down alcohol restrictions should stay in place.

Indigenous MPs call for choice on grog by Amos Aikman
Traditional Tiwi man and the conservative Country Liberal Party member for Arafura, Francis Xavier Maralampuwi, said he was "saddened and embarrassed" by seeing Tiwi people drunk on the streets of Darwin.

"Tiwi people are telling me they should be able to drink full-strength beer in their own community, controlled by their own people," Mr Maralampuwi said.

"Tiwi people are sick and tired of being told what to do by Labor, and Tiwi people are telling me that Labor is treating them like second-rate citizens.

"If you talk about closing the gap, does that mean that whites can drink heavy and blacks cannot?" ...

High-profile aboriginal woman and the CLP's new member for Stuart, Bess Price, said Aboriginal people understood first-hand the problems alcohol could bring, and that existing measures had not worked.

"We are here today and we still have not done anything about the drinkers out there - and these drinkers are our families," Ms Price said.

"We bury people. My four brothers died in a town camp because they drank every day, day in, day out."

She said Aboriginal people had been "bashing our heads against the wall", talking to government experts who thought they knew better.

"They have been there for one day, and they think they know us and they can walk away with just one answer from a person might be visiting that community that day. That is what makes people think they have the answer," Ms Price said.

"No, you do not, because any Aboriginal person you pull up, wherever, will give you whatever answer you want to hear, so you can away, feeling you have been consulted." ...

Ms Anderson predicted that, given the choice, "about 99.9 per cent" of communities would say no to more grog.

"But on this side of the House, we are giving that choice to people," Ms Anderson said.
Junking of NT booze policies spells disaster by Russell Skelton
TRIUMPHALISM is the enemy of good government, especially a newly elected one driven by an irrational compulsion to replace all the policy furniture - even when it is new.

Take the Country Liberals government of Terry Mills. Within weeks of him assuming power in the Northern Territory, hubris appears to have got the better of the Chief Minister and his team, most of whom have never seen the inside of a cabinet room. Considered change is to be welcomed when it leads to significant improvements in public policy. When driven by impetuosity the results can be chaotic, ill-considered and potentially disastrous. Such is the decision to junk the banned drinkers register targeting 2300 problem drunks.

A related decision, framed in disingenuous human rights speak, to hold a plebiscite in Aboriginal communities to reconsider grog bans already voted for also makes little sense. Not surprisingly, both policies have come under intense criticism and in the case of lifting grog bans outright rejection.

The Mills government has been a shambles with ministers sending mixed policy signals over bilingual education, pursuing individual agendas and vendettas. Most revealing is the failure to come up with a coherent and credible policy on the most pressing public health issue: excessive drinking.
Blown by fickle winds of Aboriginal policy by Noel Pearson
How can we close the gap on indigenous disadvantage if successive governments just chop and change policies arbitrarily, without proper reference to evidence and history? Given that closing the gap is a generational challenge, we must maintain a commitment to the right social and development policies for a number of decades. The right policies must survive changes of government and, by this definition, must transcend the ideological whims of political parties...

Getting policies right is like hammering an anvil. Reform policy is the convergence of the right analysis, the right strategy and the right implementation. It is a constant work in progress, where the insights and gains are hard won.

During the recent months of debate over alcohol policies I have heard politicians talking how alcohol management plans have driven people out of communities into urban areas. But then I recall the controversy 20 years ago when the mayor of Cairns organised a bus to take itinerants back to their home communities in Cape York, 10 years before alcohol restrictions. Yes, there is an itinerants' problem but reopening the problems back in the communities is not the solution. I hear politicians talking about how alcohol restrictions have resulted in a breakout in the use of cannabis. But the cannabis epidemics in remote communities were well established for more than two decades, long preceding alcohol restrictions.

But this is what happens if you let folklore and anti-intellectual rejection of proper policy analysis drive policy
related: alcohol in aboriginal communities

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