Alcohol Bans Return in Central Australia

Domestic violence soared after bans expired in Aboriginal communities
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 13, 2023 1:46 PM CDT
Alcohol Bans Return in Central Australia
Alice Springs, population around 25,000, is the largest city in central Australia.   (Getty Images/FiledIMAGE)

Less than a year after they expired, strict alcohol restrictions have returned to Aboriginal communities in central Australia. A surge in violence and other crimes followed the expiry of bans in town camps last July—defined by the Northern Territory government as "areas set aside where Aboriginal people live in and around towns and cities"—causing local and federal politicians to reinstate bans in the Alice Springs area late last month, the New York Times reports. A total ban is now in place in numerous communities around the city of 25,000. In Alice Springs itself, takeaway alcohol sales are banned on Mondays and Tuesdays and tightly controlled on other days. Buyers will be required to show photo ID and hundreds of people have been added to the Banned Drinkers Register, reports the Guardian.

The state government had argued against bringing back blanket alcohol bans, saying they were both racist and ineffective, but after the federal government intervened, they decided to bring in what they called a "circuit breaker" until communities came up with their own alcohol management plans, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports. Communities will be able to have bans lifted if at least 60% of residents vote in favor of a management plan. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese acknowledged that the problem was about more than just alcohol. It's about "intergenerational disadvantage," he said. "It is about a lack of employment services, a lack of community services, a lack of educational opportunity."

State and federal leaders admitted that they had not done enough to prepare for the end of the bans, which had been in place for 15 years. Authorities say domestic violence assaults more than doubled year-on-year. Other assaults and crimes against property, including break-ins, also surged. "This was a preventable situation," Donna Ah Chee, chief executive of the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, tells the Times. "It was Aboriginal women, families, and children that were actually paying the price." (More Australia stories.)

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