NOEL PEARSON: Well, I think that there’s not been a proper confrontation with the drivers of these problems. There’s been an unwillingness, for example, to make the connection between grog and the abuse. And, you know, these problems go back a long way. I come with a great deal of scepticism about many of the reports because the original Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody, 17 years ago, didn’t – it identified grog as an issue, but it didn’t bring it out in relief. You know, the same as the nose on your face is in relief, it didn’t bring the grog out like the nose on your face.
Noel Pearson, ‘Pearson explains plan to overhaul Aboriginal welfare‘, 19 Jun 2007, 7.30 Report, ABC
The abuse of grog and violence are epidemics their own right, not merely symptoms of underlying social and psychological problems.
Data shows a lot of violent offending is linked to alcohol
… We must continue to improve the effectiveness of our approaches, and the
QPC should consider what can be done to reduce alcohol and drug related harms.
… the perceived ‘right to drink’ may interact negatively with the right of vulnerable community members, particularly children, to be free from violence and fear, and to grow up safe and healthy, to go to school, to be educated, and to enjoy high standards of physical and mental health.
There must be a clear process and authority by which alcohol restrictions, if relaxed or removed, can also be re-introduced according to the wishes of the community if an increase in the level of harm occurs. Community interests have little ability to successfully influence liquor licensing decisions to limit the availability of alcohol anywhere in Queensland, and more responsive systems must be introduced before it can be said that Indigenous communities are empowered to drive the approach.
To effectively respond to high levels of offending as the leading proximate factor for Indigenous incarceration levels, we must tackle the dense causal pathways involved in all their complexity. Factors include: cyclical and intergenerational disadvantage; low education and employment; overcrowding and homelessness; poor health, including mental health and cognitive impairment, Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders and disability; alcohol and drug abuse; early contact with the juvenile justice system and intergenerational incarceration; poor parenting, physical and sexual abuse, and the experiences of Indigenous children in out-of-home care. If we don’t tackle these foreground drivers of offending, we have no hope of reducing Indigenous incarceration.
(The Indigenous incarceration crisis: the Queensland Productivity Commission response is inadequate, Cape York Institute submission to Queensland Productivity Commission, Inquiry into imprisonment and recidivism, April 2019)
The story of the Anglican Aboriginal Churches in the Northern Territory cannot be told without including Gumbuli. He was the first Aboriginal person to be ordained as priest in the NT, and only the 2nd Anglican Aboriginal priest in Australia.
He was respected by many at Ngukurr for standing against alcohol being brought into the community. The community had already experienced what it was like to have alcohol freely available. He was aware of the violence and problems that went with the alcohol and wanted his community spared from the consequences of binge drinking, violence, sleepless nights, and frightened women and children who were unable to sleep because of the noise and fear of the violence.
Gumbuli also played a key role in the use of the local language in church. He preached and taught in Kriol. He was a strong supporter of the Kriol Bible Translation project. He selected the first Aboriginal members of the Kriol team and encouraged the translation work. He strongly advocated for Aboriginal partnership in the translation work and insisted that they needed the whole bible Kriol. In 2007 when the Kriol bible was dedicated and presented to the people he was very proud of what had been achieved and encouraged people to use it. He understood the value of reading the bible and preaching in the language the people spoke.
Extracts from EFAC Australia – Joy Sandefur’s book review “Gumbuli of Ngukurr”.
Continue reading “Gumbuli Wurramara aboriginal elder of Arnhem Land standing against alcohol”
[Herbert Yunkaporta, a local pastor at Aurukun, Queensland.]
In 1985, the Queensland government forced the imposition of a wet canteen at Aurukun against the vehement objection of elders.
Within a decade, homicides, non-existent at Aurukun during much of the mission era, had risen exponentially, and suicides were not far behind.
He vividly remembers … the day that alcohol came to Aurukun .
“The memory is so clear to me,” Herbert says.
“We were walking down to the river to have a swim, and we saw these trucks come in laden with pallets of beer stacked up. We just stood there in silence, in amazement, just speechless.”
The wet canteen adjoined the park and was surrounded by a fence, but it didn’t stop young people breaking the rules.
“I remember seeing a boy who was my age actually put a hole through a fence and suck on a beer from a jug,” Herbert says.
“This is where I believe that Aurukun started nosediving down. That next decade alone was the darkest decade in the history of Aurukun.”
Natasha Robinson, “‘Aurukun needs to be awakened’: Local pastor hopes town at ‘turning point’ after difficult past”, ABC News, 27 May 2016
‘Aboriginal elder Joe Brown, 63, a leader of Kurnangki, one of three communities bordering the town centre, said children as young as 12 were into drugs and alcohol.
“We should have a total grog ban,” he said.
Mr Brown, whose 25-year-old son committed suicide last year, said he did not want the army brought in to WA but supported extending to the state the total alcohol bans being proposed in the territory.
Marra Worra Worra Aboriginal Corporation chairman Ivan McPhee, an elder, said the situation in the town was getting worse. He wants tougher alcohol restrictions, including a total ban on takeaway sales, and says the issues are the same as those confronting most of the Kimberley.
“Our kids are going out of control, wandering around with no jobs,” he said. “We are losing a lot of young people to alcohol and drugs. We never heard anything about hanging until drugs and alcohol came.
“We are having a funeral every day. A lot of people are talking about (child sex abuse). We are hearing things about rape.”’
Jessica Strutt, ‘Elders call for more alcohol bans’, The Age, 14 July 2007.
58.2 % of indigenous women (aged 18+) do not drink alcohol. Thank God these women had never consumed alcohol (or at least not within a week of the survey).
‘In 2004–05, Indigenous people aged 18 years and over were more likely than non-Indigenous people to abstain from drinking alcohol.’
The Health and Welfare of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, 2008, Ch. 8, Health Risk Factors, p. 141-142.
‘Women may be abstainers for a variety of reasons. Christianity is frequently a reason proffered by Aboriginal women to explain their non-drinking status, and they form the core of participants in the variety of Christian churches and movements across Aboriginal Australia. At Yalata in South Australia, for example, a new Aboriginal-controlled Christian movement provoked many drinkers to stop their alcohol use and gave encouragement to women non-drinkers in their efforts to curb the importation of alcohol into the community (Brady & Palmer 1988). The adoption of the perceived ‘Christian life’ is a way in which Aboriginal people may legitimise their abandonment of drinking (cf. Neich & Park 1988).
Other women say that they cannot drink because they have to care for their families, or even for their drinking husbands. Evidence given to the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1988 suggested that whereas Aboriginal men had ‘learned’ their drinking habits from the hard, binge-drinking white stockmen, Aboriginal women encountered, or worked for, white women who were mainly missionaries’ or pastoralists’ wives, who tended not to drink alcohol (Alice Springs hearings, 7 October 1988, Dr C. Watson).
Women (and men) may give up drinking because of repeated encounters with gaol and the police (cf. Laurie & McGrath 1985)’
Alcohol Use and Its Effects Upon Aboriginal Women, Maggie Brady Visiting Research Fellow, Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies Canberra, Australian Capital Territory
“Twenty-four Central Australian Lutheran pastors have called on government leaders to take urgent action about alcohol abuse in Alice Springs.
In a co-signed letter to federal government ministers (including the prime minister), shadow ministers, senators and senior Northern Territory MLAs, the pastors described ‘the unfolding tragedy’ in the Centre and requested the federal and territory governments to reduce the all-day trade in alcohol in Alice Springs, close ‘hidden bars’, designate one day a week on which no takeaway alcohol can be sold, and better manage welfare payments in order to restrict the purchase of alcohol.” Continue reading “Alice Springs pastors against alcohol carnage”
Kava: the drug ruining the Pacific
The drug has been introduced to Australia – as if Australia did not already have enough problems from alcohol and other drugs.
(Piper methysticum is known as kava or yaqona.)
Kava: psychotic effect clouds judgement
- People ignore kava’s horrid taste, and unfortunately drink it for the sake of its psychotic effect. The drug reduces inhibitions and clouds judgement.
- It is sedative, relaxes the muscles, slurs speech, and causes the mouth and throat to become numb. The kava-drinker becomes dizzy or unable to stand up.
- Kava gets many girls into a state of mind where they are accepting kava in return for indecent behaviour.
Continue reading “Kava drinking: serving a holy God yet practising a dirty habit”
The head of WA’s [Western Australia’s] Aboriginal Health Council is calling for alcohol to be made illegal in indigenous communities across the State as the Government considers implementing liquor bans in at least three more townships.
Henry Councillor said the early success of a complete alcohol ban imposed on the remote east Kimberley outpost of Oombulgurri should be held up as a model of what could be achieved in other communities [comment: indigenous or not].
Continue reading “Complete alcohol ban: violence out, schools up”