Tackling alcohol abuse in Northern Territory communities
The Australian Government has today released draft minimum standards for Alcohol Management Plans, which are designed to help improve safety for Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory.
The Government has also released a new study that shows controls on alcohol supply in Central Australia have helped to combat rising levels of alcohol abuse and violence.
The introduction of stringent minimum standards for Alcohol Management Plans is part of the Government’s Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory package – a 10-year $3.4 billion investment which responds to what Aboriginal people have said is most important to them.
The Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin said alcohol abuse continues to devastate the lives of too many Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory.
“It can lead to family and health problems and make it harder to hold down a job or get children to school,” Ms Macklin said.
“The minimum standards will ensure Alcohol Management Plans are focused on reducing alcohol-related harm and ensuring the safety of community members – particularly women, children and families.”
As part of the Stronger Futures package, alcohol restrictions have been continued in the Northern Territory. Alcohol Management Plans are not about reducing or lifting alcohol restrictions in Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory, but about assisting Aboriginal communities to reduce the harm caused by alcohol.
The Australian Government will now talk with Aboriginal people and other stakeholders about the minimum standards released today before they are finalised.
Over the coming month, Australian Government representatives will meet with community leaders, women’s groups and others including police, health workers, domestic violence workers and alcohol reference groups in Northern Territory communities to hear what people think should be included in the draft minimum standards.
Following the consultations, the Australian Government will finalise the minimum standards.
Communities can then choose to develop an Alcohol Management Plan, with the assistance of local organisations and government staff.
Alcohol Management Plans will need to meet the minimum standards in order to be approved by the Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs.
For the Federal Minister to consider making any changes to alcohol restrictions in a community, an alcohol management plan that meets the minimum standards would need to be in place.
The Minister would also consider whether there has been a demonstrated reduction in alcohol-related harm, and whether this would be at risk through the lifting of restrictions.
The Minister for Indigenous Health Warren Snowdon said that a new study being released today showed controls on alcohol supply in Central Australia had helped combat rising levels of alcohol abuse and violence.
Mr Snowdon said the longitudinal study shows that the number of people presenting at the Alice Springs Hospital Emergency Department was significantly lower than those predicted on the basis of prior trends, especially from 2008 onwards.
The National Drug Research Institute study examined alcohol consumption and related harm in Central Australia between 2000 and 2010, covering the period prior and following the introduction of alcohol controls, including the Alice Springs Alcohol Management Plan, the Liquor Supply Plan and the Northern Territory Emergency Response.
The report shows the decline in the estimated per person consumption of pure alcohol over the study period from about 4.0 litres to about 3.4 litres.
Mr Snowdon said the study showed that restrictions on alcohol have positive impacts on the health and wellbeing of women kids and families.
“Managing the supply of alcohol means it is easier for women to make healthier lifestyle choices during pregnancy when we know the safest option for the unborn child is not to drink,” Mr Snowdon said.
“We also know that alcohol consumption has an association with a range of diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity,” Mr Snowdon said.
The Government has asked the Australian National Preventive Health Agency (ANPHA) to review the public interest case for a minimum (floor) price of alcohol.
This report will be considered by the ANPHA in that work.
A copy of the report can be found at www.fahcsia.gov.au/node/17093
Further information about Alcohol Management Plans and the proposed minimum standards is available at: www.fahcsia.gov.au/StrongerFutures/TacklingAlcoholAbuse