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Health professionals unite with community to advocate for Aboriginal alcohol policy reform

Date posted: 21 July 2016

A number of Northern Territory (NT) professional and community organisations have voiced concern over the impacts of alcohol on Aboriginal people in Australia's top end. The North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA), Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT), Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC), the People’s Alcohol Action Coalition (PAAC) and the NT Branch of the Public Health Association Australia (PHAA) have all united in a call for policy makers to re-consider the way that alcohol issues are addressed in Aboriginal communities.

NAAJA's Managing Civil Lawyer, Pip Martin, said that 'Alcoholism is a public health issue, not a criminal justice issue. Our response should be treatment rather than punishment,' and has said that the NT Government's alcohol protection orders (APOs) might need to be revised.

Assoc Prof John Boffa, General Practitioner and Public Health Advocate with PHAA and PAAC, said that the NT Government needs to listen to the evidence on what works to reduce alcoholism. 'Until we address why people are drinking at these levels of harm, where they are literally killing themselves...just trying to manipulate supply side will never be enough,' said Professor Boffa.

AMSANT CEO, John Paterson, has called on the government to consult and work with Aboriginal people, communities and organisations to find beneficial ways to address the over-consumption of alcohol. 'National and international research is clear that restricting the availability of alcohol, including by increasing the price, is the most effective means of reducing alcohol consumption and related harm,' said Mr Paterson.

Under the current 2013 Alcohol protection orders act (NT), police can issue an APO if a person has been charged with an offence punishable by six months imprisonment or more; and where police believe the person was affected by alcohol at the time of the offending.

Sources: Human Rights Law Centre, NACCHO Communique

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Last updated: 21 July 2016
 
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Australia's National Research Centre on AOD Workforce Development National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre National Drug Research Institute