Woorabinda CQUniversity

Calls to scrap alcohol bans in CQ Aboriginal community

SLY-grogging and underage drinking is still a problem for Woorabinda despite severe alcohol restrictions and high penalties for those caught breaking the law.

Woorabinda Aboriginal Shire Council Mayor Cheyne Wilkie is calling for an end to the government's Alcohol Management Plan, saying prohibition hasn't worked for the community.

The plans were rolled out across 19 Queensland Indigenous communities in 2002 in a bid to reduce alcohol-fuelled violence.

Prior to that, alcohol was available from venues managed under licences held by Indigenous Local Government Councils.

Most of these licences were terminated or modified by the end of 2008, effectively prohibiting alcohol.

Cr Wilkie said the plans had not improved the lives of those in Woorabinda, where people could be seen walking around drunk in a 'dry' community.

"There is still alcohol coming into the community, there is still sly-grogging," he said.

"There's still underage drinking, there's still high unemployment."

Which is why Cr Wilkie believes it's time to review or abolish the town's Alcohol Management Plan.

Cr Wilkie explained Woorabinda would be better having its own venue serving alcohol, which could have strict community-implemented controls.

Currently, residents have to put up with the problems associated with alcohol abuse, but the money is spent outside the community.

Breaches of alcohol restrictions also attract hefty penalties.

A 2017 study found that 6961 people had been convicted of 15,511 charges up to June 30, 2014. More than 100 people were jailed and almost all of those charged and convicted were Indigenous residents of communities with Alcohol Management Plans.

In 2015, the State Government started a formal review of the plans.

However, the results have never been finalised.

Later this month, the Local Government Association of Queensland will debate the future of the plans following a motion to finalise the 2015 review by March 2019.

A spokesperson for the Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships confirmed the review was "expected to be finalised by early 2019".

"Overwhelmingly, community proposals as part of the Review note the valuable role Alcohol Management Plans play in ensuring community safety," they said.

"DATSIP continues to work with local leaders, the Woorabinda community and across government to build on the discussions to date and help inform the future approach.

"We are working with communities to establish strategies that respond to challenges around sly-grogging, including moving to prohibit products like turbo-yeast."