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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 June 2007, 09:27 GMT 10:27 UK
Alcohol banned in Aborigine areas
Aboriginal people gather in a street in Alice Springs (file image)
Alcohol and poverty have blighted Aboriginal communities
Australia is to ban alcohol and pornography in Aboriginal areas in the Northern Territory in a bid to curb child sex abuse.

All Aboriginal children in the territory will be medically examined.

The new proposals follow a report last week which found evidence of abuse in each of the territory's 45 communities.

The report blamed high levels of alcohol and poverty for the situation, which Prime Minister John Howard has described as a national emergency.

"We're dealing with a group of young Australians for whom the concept of childhood innocence has never been present," John Howard told parliament.

Abuse is serious, widespread and often unreported
Aboriginal people not the only victims or perpetrators of sexual abuse
Contributing factors include poverty, alcohol and drug abuse, gambling, pornography
Health and social services desperately need improving

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"That is a sad and tragic event. Exceptional measures are required to deal with an exceptionally tragic situation."

Mr Howard said the federal government would take over the administration of Aboriginal communities for the next five years so that the new laws would be strictly enforced.

For the last decade, Aboriginal communities have by and large been allowed to govern themselves.

Aboriginal leaders have expressed outrage at the new measures.

"It's another knee-jerk reaction from our government to a very serious issue," the director of the Crossroads Aboriginal Ministries in Sydney, Ray Minniecon, told the BBC.

"To ban alcohol on Aboriginal communities, where that ban has already been in place for the last 20 or 30 years by the Aboriginal people themselves, is a bit silly. [Mr Howard] would have to ban that in the cities and towns where white people live with Aboriginal people in order to make it effective."

Computer search

Under the new measures, the sale, possession, transportation and consumption of alcohol will be banned in indigenous communities for six months.

Australia map

Hardcore pornography will also be made illegal and all publicly-funded computers will be searched for pornographic images.

There will be restrictions on the payment of government welfare benefits so that alcohol cannot be bought with them.

Welfare payments would be contingent on children attending school and new rules would dictate how they are spent to ensure that young people are properly fed and clothed.

Last week's landmark report identified a wide range of social issues that contribute to child sexual abuse.

They included unemployment, poor health and nutrition, overcrowded housing, substance abuse and pornography.

Australia's prime minister announces the ban

Aborigine child sex abuse 'rife'
15 Jun 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Australia battles rise in alcohol abuse
31 May 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Alcohol 'time-bomb' of Aborigines
12 Feb 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Booze ban extended for Aborigines
17 Apr 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Australia's lost generation
16 Feb 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Australia
09 May 07 |  Country profiles

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