Insufficient planning by governments in lifting of NT alcohol ban, says AADANT

By Anna Macdonald

July 18, 2022

NT alcohol ban
a sign showing a government ban on alcohol at the entrance to the remote town of Wadeye in the Northern Territory in Australia. (AP Photo/Kristen Gelineau)

Federal government legislation ceased to be operational on Sunday, now allowing for the sale of alcohol in some parts of the Northern Territory. 

The Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory Act 2012 ended on midnight Saturday, and as a result some communities in the territory no longer have alcohol sale restrictions imposed. 

Communities that are classified as general restricted areas continue to have alcohol restricted, with the territory government allowing some communities to apply to continue to stay dry for the next two years if they become an interim alcohol protected area with a deadline of next January. 

The federal government, through the National Indigenous Australians Agency, has said it is working with the Northern Territory government to ‘transition elements’ of the legislation.

In a statement, the NIAA said the sunsetting of the legislation was ‘consistent with the Australian government’s commitment to self-determination’.

Association of Alcohol and other Drug Agencies NT executive officer Peter Burnheim told The Mandarin both the federal and Northern Territory governments have undertaken insufficient planning on the cessation of alcohol sales in the territory. 

“While communities must lead decisions on whether or not alcohol is returned to local areas, these changes must be considered from a health equity perspective. 

“Further resourcing is needed to facilitate community decision-making processes, undertake auditing of resources to support the minimisation of potential alcohol-related harms, and respond to the impacts of alcohol returning to these areas,” Burnheim said in a statement. 

Burnheim added his organisation continues to advocate for more resourcing to implement the change in alcohol policy, as well as an ‘urgent reinstatement’ of an inter-jurisdictional governance structure following the dissolution of the Ministerial Drug and Alcohol Forum.  

There have been critiques as well of the alcohol ban itself, as author and activist Thomas Mayor was critical of the blanket approach by the federal government.

“One of the effects was that people just moved out of community to access alcohol (and were) on the roads putting themselves and others in danger.

“It just created more opportunities for Indigenous people to be incarcerated … and basically was in ignorance to the real causes of alcohol problems in communities,” Mayor said, as quoted by the Guardian


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