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Last Updated: Saturday, 17 April, 2004, 10:53 GMT 11:53 UK
Booze ban extended for Aborigines
By Phil Mercer
BBC, Sydney

Aborigine neighbourhood
Aborigines remain Australia's most disadvantaged community
Alcohol restrictions have been brought in at several Aboriginal communities in northern Australia.

The total number of settlements where curbs on alcohol have been introduced in a bid to cut assaults and domestic violence now numbers 17.

The Queensland State government, which brought in the ban, said alcohol abuse had devastated the lives of indigenous Australians and was costing billions.

Some Aboriginal leaders are unhappy the ban is being imposed by government.

However, a respected Aboriginal leader said at a health conference at the end of last year that his people had to get sober.

He warned that many wallowed in a perpetual state of torpor and catatonic drunkenness.

Some Aboriginal communities have been declared alcohol-free zones, while many others continue to self-destruct.

The abuse of alcohol and drugs is interwoven in a cycle of poverty, violence and ill-health.

Total ban possibility

In the northern Australian State of Queensland, the authorities have introduced tough new restrictions on more than half-a-dozen settlements.

Residents are now limited to carrying one case of light or mid-strength beer and two litres of wine - it's an offence to exceed these limits, and fines will apply.

Police in Queensland have reported a significant fall in the number of serious assaults in communities where the changes have already been brought in.

On Palm Island north of Townsville, officers have said there have been far fewer stabbings and attacks with rocks and sticks since all alcohol apart from beer was outlawed.

The restrictions have angered some local indigenous leaders. They are angry that the new measures have been imposed on them by the state government.

The authorities in Queensland, however, have hinted they would consider introducing a total prohibition of alcohol if the spiral of abuse and violence was not curbed.

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