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NT alcohol review must examine causes of abuse and gaps in treatment, say Indigenous groups

Date posted: 25 August 2017

New alcohol measures in the Northern Territory (NT) won't make a difference unless they tackle the causes of alcohol abuse and the gaps in treatment services for people who want to stop drinking, local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health groups say.

The NT Government commissioned a broad review into the Territory's alcohol laws, which is expected to be delivered next month.

A number of submissions called for the legal drinking age to be raised to 21, and for a ban on political donations from the alcohol industry. However, discussions about regulating supply have not been matched with enough focus on the underlying causes of high alcohol use, according to Joy McLaughlin, Policy Officer at the Danila Dilba Health Service.

'It's quite simple, if we ignore the underlying social determinants or structural factors, in five or ten years we'll be having the exact same conversation,' she noted. 'There's an opportunity to make a positive difference and we should make sure we grab it.'

Ms McLaughlin hoped the alcohol review would include a look at the availability and appropriateness of treatment services. She said clients wanting to give up alcohol often faced months-long wait for rehab. 'We don't have enough of those services, or enough beds in those services,' she said. 'We don't have very much available in terms of community-based rehabilitation where people can attend various interventions but still go on with their daily lives.'

Efforts to address alcohol abuse should be part of a broad strategy targeting the social determinants of health, said Donna Ah Chee, from the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress. 'That includes poverty, social exclusion, racism, unhealthy early childhood development, housing, education and employment.'

Source: ABC


Last updated: 25 August 2017
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