Alice Springs town camp residents consider impact of alcohol bans following PM’s crisis visit

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With a decision looming on whether to reinstate the Northern Territory Intervention-era alcohol ban, residents who could be affected by the potential changes are considering their options.

Until last July, city camps and outlying communities were designated “dry zones” under the controversial Stronger Futures laws, which banned the bringing in of liquor and prevented residents from buying grog from bottle shops.

Now, following an emergency visit to Alice Springs by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and a series of immediate alcohol measures announced, a return to a total ban on alcohol is being considered.

The prime minister stopped reinstating the bans on urban camps and remote communities, but a senior bureaucrat has been given a week to advise whether they should be reintroduced.

Janelle Driver supports the measures, which she says help give people a break from drinking every day.(ABC Alice Springs: Lee Robinson)

Janelle Driver lives in the Hidden Valley urban camp, one of more than a dozen suburban communities previously subject to a lengthy grog ban.

She said imposing alcohol-free days, a measure introduced for a three-month trial period, was “a good idea” for the community.

“That way, some people can stop drinking for a while, instead of drinking every day,” she said.

“Alcohol can make the community look bad.”

The young mother said that more should be invested in children to bring about positive change.

“The focus should be on children,” she said.

“The young people do bad things and have no role model to look up to.

“We need more support, especially for the young guys who are doing the wrong things, and maybe then they will change.”

An indigenous woman with her hair tied back, wearing a dark T-shirt, stands outside.
Esther Bruno has called on community members to express their concerns.(ABC Alice Springs: Lee Robinson)

‘Children go wild’

Pressure on the government for urgent action has increased in recent weeks, given rising crime and alcohol-fueled violence in the outback town.

Last year, when the Northern Territory government introduced its own legislation to replace federal bans, it had maintained that the Stronger Futures laws were a “race-based policy that disempowered Aboriginal Territorians.”

On Tuesday, Northern Territory chief minister Natasha Fyles said it was “clear now” that some sort of change was needed.

For Esther Bruno, who visits the Hidden Valley town camp to care for a relative, the alcohol consumption she sees in Alice Springs is way too high.

“There’s been a lot of trouble here,” she said.

“Children go wild because parents don’t take care of their children.

“Some parents use their money to go to the pub, and people also come from the bush to get alcohol and they have no respect for Alice Springs and run amok.”

A few chairs and a table on a large piece of land in a rural town.
Alcohol was not allowed in any of the city camps on the outskirts of Alice Springs until July 17, 2022.(ABC Alice Springs: Lee Robinson)

Mrs. Bruno’s hometown of Kintore, a community 300 miles west of Alice Springs, does not allow alcohol to be brought in and consumed.

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