Elders in a remote mining town in Western Australia’s Pilbara have created a community liquor agreement to curb alcohol-fuelled violence in the community.
- A community liquor agreement has been running for just over a month and an elder says the community is following the rules
- A women’s shelter and local police have also seen a reduction in alcohol-fuelled violence
- A Martu elder visited Port Hedland this week to educate the region’s elders on the strategy
Martu elder Colin Peterson said he wanted to protect Newman’s young people following the death of a young woman in the town in May.
A 17-year-old man was charged with her murder and is facing court in Perth.
“What’s been happening here about this young girl … we’re trying to do the proper thing for the Aboriginal people in this community.”
Under the agreement, the local Aboriginal community can purchase liquor between 12:00pm and 3:00pm.
“We limit the drink, no bottles allowed, and no strong stuff,” Mr Peterson said.
The Martu elder visits the local liquor stores every day to check people are behaving responsibly and to provide advice.
Mr Peterson said he also discourages children from entering liquor stores with their parents because he does not want it to become a ‘happy place’ for the next generation.
The liquor agreement has been running for just over a month, but Mr Peterson said the community is following the rules and he has seen a reduction in alcohol-fuelled violence.
Decline in alcohol-fuelled violence
Maggie Lewis has managed the Newman Women’s Shelter for over 20 years.
The shelter is a haven for women and children escaping domestic violence and homelessness in the Pilbara.
“A lot of [it is] alcohol-fuelled,” she said.
Ms Lewis said while the liquor agreement was in its early days, she had already seen a difference in the Newman community.
Ms Lewis was hopeful the trend will continue.
“In the next few months, we’ll determine whether it is making a difference,” she said.
Officer in charge at Newman Police, Senior Sergeant Jon Munday, said St John Ambulance had also seen a decline in alcohol-related call outs.
‘Dramatic’ decrease in youth crime
Last year, Newman was likened to a war zone with abandoned homes and youth vandalism rampant.
Senior Sergeant Munday said the Newman of 18 months ago was not the town of today.
“We have noticed a dramatic decrease in juvenile crime and I would attribute some of that to … [the] school engagement program, but I’d also attribute that to some of the work we’ve been doing with the liquor accord,” he said.
“The amazing thing is we don’t need the legislative framework behind it because the Martu respect what their elders have said.”
Senior Sergeant Munday said since the agreement came into place, he had seen less children roaming the street at night.
“[Kids] don’t want to be at home because mum and dad and uncles are at home drunk,” he said.
“There’s antisocial behaviour, there might be domestic violence. So the kids are out and they’re congregating with themselves and then get up to no good.”
Senior Sergeant Munday said he had also seen a link between curbing alcohol sales in Newman and an increase in school attendance.
Why communities need to take a stand
According to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation, every year in Australia 4,186 people die from alcohol-related injuries, illness, and accidents.
Alcohol-related harm is estimated to cost Australia $15.3 billion dollars each year.
Sam Menezes, part of the local drug action team at the Australian Drug Foundation, said it was wonderful Newman was taking a stand and the community was addressing the issues themselves.
“Communities play a really important role in identifying and preventing local alcohol and other drug-related issues,” she said.
“This knowledge is really key to successful harm prevention in their community.”
Ms Lewis of the Newman Woman’s Shelter said Western Australians had an unhealthy drinking culture and education was the key to reducing alcohol-fuelled violence.
“If we don’t get into the primary schools and deliver a consistent message like we did with the quit campaign for smoking cigarettes we won’t get far,” she said.
Shire of East Pilbara president Lynne Craigie said the strategy had worked because of Newman’s strong community.
“We still have a lot of issues here that we need to address, and we’re working on that,” she said.
“If we can wipe out some of those problems associated to alcohol, as you said domestic violence and crime, then it’s going to be a great place to live. Even greater.”
Martu elder Colin Peterson visited Port Hedland this week to educate the region’s elders on the strategy.
He wants other regions in the Pilbara and Western Australia to also benefit from the community-led strategy, which he said could reduce alcohol-related harms.
Credit: Source link