The World Today - Monday, February 17, 2003 12:40
ELEANOR HALL: Well, now to our story about the Aboriginal community
appears to be winning the battle against alcohol-related violence.
Aurukun, on Cape York Peninsula in far north Queensland, imposed liquor
bans only a month ago, but already alcohol-related health problems have
fallen by 80%. At the same time, children are returning to school and
of the community's money is being spent on food.
But as Louise Willis reports, those administering the scheme are warning
the plan is no miracle cure.
LOUISE WILLIS: A report by former Justice Tony Fitzgerald in 2001 detailed
the severity of the alcohol problem in indigenous communities in
Queensland, and said drastic measures were needed. Now, some of those
drastic measures are in place in the remote Cape York community of
Aurukun, the first indigenous community to take them on.
The community tavern is open for shorter hours during the day, it doesn't
sell take-away alcohol, and only provides medium and low-strength beer.
Anyone who doesn't send their children to school is banned from the
One month into the changes, no-one wants to say that alcohol-related
problems in Aurukun are solved, but early evidence shows more people are
turning up for work, and the workload for local health professionals has
Queensland Families Minister Judy Spence.
JUDY SPENCE: It's early days, but we've seen the first month of this
plan, and I'm pleased to say that it has led to a significant reduction
alcohol-related violence during the first few weeks of its implementation.
We've also had other good statistics. For example, there's been an 80%
reduction in alcohol-related presentations at the local health clinic,
there's been a 20% increase in food sales, and anecdotally we're told
improvement in the atmosphere of the community.
LOUISE WILLIS: Do you declare this plan a success, then?
JUDY SPENCE: Oh no, I think it's early days. We're only looking at the
first month of the plan, and I think we'd want to give it six months
before we started being too boastful about it. However, having said that,
I think the Aurukun community has shown strong leadership in introducing
this strict new alcohol regime, and at present we are working with the
other indigenous communities in Queensland on their alcohol management
plans, and they will come in line in the next couple of months.
LOUISE WILLIS: Judy Spence.
On the ground, school principal Stan Sheppard has noticed an improvement
in behaviour and attendance rates amongst children.
STAN SHEPPARD: I guess the assumption can be made that there would be
better family life at home. I can only express my point of view from the
school. The teachers at the school have indicated that there is less noise
in the community at night. If, by that assumption, then students get more
sleep, then they're coming to school better prepared to learn.
LOUISE WILLIS: Local council CEO Gary Kleidon is proud of the changes,
says some community members remains less than fully convinced.
GARY KLEIDON: You know, there's been a significant change, and obviously
people are still, I guess, wary to a degree. But the initial impact has
been positive and hopefully we can continue to work with it and achieve
some real positive permanent change.
I think the issue is at the moment that what we need to do now is to
ensure that their diversionary programmes are put in place, and that we're
working with the people to reinforce the positive aspects of the plan,
the implementation of the plan.
ELEANOR HALL: The chief executive of the Aurukun Shire Council, Gary
Kleidon, ending that report from Louise Willis.