The controversy over whether indigenous communities should or shouldn’t allow for consumption of alcohol within their boundaries (‘Rivers of grog’ fear as ban ends, 26.7) places me in somewhat of a bind.
Some communities, Including Numbulwar and Angurugu in Eastern Arnhemland where I worked from 1976 until 1982, were declared ‘dry’ at the time. That was 20 years before John Howard, as part of the Commonwealth intervention, mandated ‘dryness’ for all communities in August 2007. There were numerous breaches of the rules, usually by people able to get alcohol from alternative sources before returning and acting untowardly while alcohol affected. However, by and large there was adherence to the policies operating in these and other communities, which supported tranquility and relatively peaceful living.
I now live in Darwin and have seen and experienced the deleterious impact upon our urban community, created by people coming from dry communities to obtain alcohol. The desire to access alcohol is a major contributor to business and residential break-ins, which in our cities and towns have skyrocketed in recent years. Domestic violence, drunken behaviour and long grass living situations are largely behavioural by-products of people primarily focussed on wanting alcohol.
If communities are allowed to return to local supply of alcohol, this will alleviate a lot of the pressures placed on our cities and towns. However, the relative quiet of those communities, until now without alcohol, may evaporate.
The whole issue poses a cleft stick situation.