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Central Australian Aboriginal Congress warns absence of inspectors will spark "new wave" of alcohol-driven harm in Alice Springs

Giovanni Torre -

Central Australian Aboriginal Congress warned on Monday that the Northern Territory government's decision to leave Alice Springs bottle shops without full coverage from Police Auxiliary Licensing Inspectors or their equivalent will "lead to a new wave of alcohol-related harm in the town", including increases in alcohol related domestic violence, assaults, and presentations at the Alice Springs Hospital Emergency Department.

Congress chief executive Donna Ah Chee, said Police Minister Brent Potter's decision to remove the Police Auxiliary Licensing Inspectors (PALIs) to Darwin for training without replacing them is "already having consequences" for town residents, visitors and tourists.

"PALIs have an essential role in reducing alcohol related harm in Alice Springs by ensuring that those who are buying alcohol at takeaway outlets are doing so legally," she said.

"Since the unilateral removal of these vital frontline officers at the beginning of the month, without ensuring that the important role they play is continued by other staff, the town is already seeing increasing alcohol related chaos."

Ms Ah Chee said Congress supports the role of the PALIs and their need for training.

"Just like any employee, they should have the right to training and career progression. What I don't understand is why the government would withdraw them all at the same time, on extremely short notice. That is a recipe for disaster," she said.

"The move will undermine the progress the town has made on reducing alcohol-related harm since the beginning of last year. We cannot afford to take a single step backwards.

"We now have the latest official sales data and police crime statistics for Alice Springs to January 2024, and it is clear that the alcohol regulations introduced by the Territory government in January and February 2023 have had a significant effect in making Alice Springs safer, and a more attractive destination for tourists and employees."

Ms Ah Chee cited a "considerable reduction" in alcohol sales / consumption (down 20 per cent in Q4 2023 compared to the same period in 2022, and down 25 per cent comparing Q3 in each year); "significant reductions" in domestic violence presentations at the Alice Springs Hospital Emergency Department (monthly DV presentations down 39 per cent); and "a considerable reduction" in crime, including domestic and family violence (alcohol-related Domestic Violence assaults are down by 43 per cent, all alcohol-related assaults by 42 per cent, and property offences by 15 per cent.

"Failing to provide full coverage on all takeaway outlets will see these gains go backwards, and it will be the people of Central Australia who will pay the price," she said.

"The government's alcohol regulations were never expected to solve all the town's social issues. We are still concerned about the poverty, family dysfunction, intergenerational trauma and lack of access to education which continue to drive youth offending.

"These issues will not be fixed in the short term. While we commend the Australian and Northern Territory Governments for their recent investments in education, housing and jobs, the failure to keep the alcohol under control will limit the effect of these historic investments."

The Congress chief executive said the region needs effective alcohol regulation that "keeps Alice Springs residents, families, visitors and businesses safe now, and provide the best possible future for the town".

National Indigenous Times has contacted NT Police Minister Potter for comment.

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