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Wunan Foundation head urges new thinking to tackle alcohol "genocide" of Aboriginal people in north WA

Giovanni Torre -

The head of an Aboriginal development organisation in WA's north has urged a new approach to address alcohol abuse in Indigenous communities.

The executive chairman of East Kimberley-based Wunan Foundation, Ian Trust, said on Friday that alcohol addiction was driving a "genocide of the Aboriginal people in the Northwest of Western Australia".

"It is having a catastrophic impact on the lives of many families, their children, the community at large and the local economy," he said.

"The problems caused by the misuse of alcohol and having no role and purpose in life including a job for many Aboriginal families has been developing for a long time and what you see is the tip of a social disaster iceberg which has been unfolding for over 50 years.

"There are many reasons to this tragedy the core of which was the breakdown of the family unit due to the introduction of welfare, alcohol, and mass unemployment."

Mr Trust said the problem these factors have caused is "now endemic and inter-generational" and has "unleashed a cascade of catastrophic social consequences, including rampant crime, child abuse, family violence, neglect, chronic health afflictions, homelessness, and one of the world's most alarming suicide rates".

"When you consider the issue of juveniles and crime, the same factors are present in every case; Broken families, limited education, neglected children, inter-generational welfare dependency, high alcohol consumption, poor health, overcrowded housing, poor living conditions and a breakdown of traditional norms and values.

"Many of the youth from these families who are involved in crime don't have a safe place to live, do not have anyone they can look up to for guidance, do not feel loved and do not have any aspirations for the future or a better life. And the sad part is that they are born into a family whose parents experienced the same lifestyle when they were children."

Mr Trust noted a recent report indicating 800 children were removed from the streets of Broome by the Police for antisocial behaviour, adding "this highlights the extent of the problem we face".

"We must change our thinking and our strategy to resolve this problem and the recent announcement by the WA government... (of) a plan for Broome is the type of thinking required," he said.

National Indigenous Times has contacted the WA government for comment.

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