NTG opens floodgates to alcohol harms

Northern Territory Government opens floodgates to alcohol harms

Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (Congress) has warned that the Northern Territory Government’s decision to leave Alice Springs bottle shops without full coverage from Police Auxiliary Licensing Inspectors (PALIs) or their equivalent will lead to a new wave of alcohol-related harm in the town, including increases in alcohol related domestic violence, assaults, and presentations at the Alice Springs Hospital Emergency Department.

Congress CEO, Donna Ah Chee, said that Police Minister Brent Potter’s decision to remove the PALIs to Darwin for training without replacing them is already having consequences for town residents, visitors and tourists.

“PALIs have an essential role in reducing alcohol related harm in Alice Springs by ensuring that those who are buying alcohol at takeaway outlets are doing so legally.”

“Since the unilateral removal of these vital frontline officers at the beginning of the month, without ensuring that the important role they play is continued by other staff, the town is already seeing increasing alcohol related chaos.”

Ms Ah Chee said that Congress supports the role of the PALIs and their need for training. “Just like any employee, they should have the right to training and career progression. What I don’t understand is why the Government would withdraw them all at the same time, on extremely short notice. That is a recipe for disaster.”

Ms Ah Chee said: “The move will undermine the progress the town has made on reducing alcohol-related harm since the beginning of last year. We cannot afford to take a single step backwards.”

“We now have the latest official sales data and  police crime statistics for Alice Springs to January 2024, and it is clear that the alcohol regulations introduced by the Northern Territory Government in January and February 2023 have had a significant effect in making Alice Springs safer, and a more attractive destination for tourists and employees.”

These statistics show:

  • a considerable reduction in alcohol sales / consumption (down 20% in Q4 2023 compared to the same period in 2022, and down 25% comparing Q3 in each year)
  • significant reductions in domestic violence presentations at the Alice Springs Hospital Emergency Department (monthly DV presentations down 39%)
  • a considerable reduction in crime, including domestic and family violence (alcohol-related Domestic Violence assaults are down by 43%; all alcohol-related assaults by 42%; and property offences by 15%)

Ms Ah Chee continued: “Failing to provide full coverage on all takeaway outlets will see these gains go backwards, and it will be people of Central Australia who will pay the price.”

Ms Ah Chee ended by saying: “The Government’s alcohol regulations were never expected to solve all the town’s social issues. We are still concerned about the poverty, family dysfunction, intergenerational trauma and lack of access to education which continue to drive youth offending.”

“These issues will not be fixed in the short term. While we commend the Australian and Northern Territory Governments for their recent investments in education, housing and jobs, the failure to keep the alcohol under control will limit the effect of these historic investments.”

“We need effective alcohol regulation that keeps Alice Springs residents, families, visitors and businesses safe now, and provide the best possible future for the town.”