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Submission Sessional Committee on the Use and Abuse of Alcohol by the Community 051 Pitjantjatjara Council Inc



Submission Sessional Committee on the Use and Abuse of Alcohol by the Community 051 Pitjantjatjara Council Inc

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Tabled Paper 271


Tabled Papers for 6th Assembly 1990 - 1994; Tabled Papers; ParliamentNT




Tabled by Eric Poole


Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory under Standing Order 240. Where copyright subsists with a third party it remains with the original owner and permission may be required to reuse the material.




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In other words, people chose to live with few other individuals, and to operate as separate family groups. However, because each group was within one day's walk from its neighbours, marshalling large numbers for ceremonies or to confront intruders was not an unsurmountable problem. After good rains, groups of up to 150 people would congregate for ceremonial purposes, and disperse once game was depleted. Overall then, not only were people used to living within small family groups, they lived at a polite distance from others. In this respect the past has had a profound impact on the way people now react to settlement life. In earlier times, because of an extraordinary degree of mobility and the flexibility of organizing only small groups of people, Aborigines were able to deal with disputes and trouble simply by moving camp. It has been noted frequently, and recently by Myers, that mobility was (and is) an important factor in stress management. By moving away temporarily, people were able to allow disagreement to mellow with time and separation. Today, in communities such as Warburton, mobility is still used as a stress-management technique. When alcohol is perceived to be causing too much disruption in the settlement, non-drinkers leave for a temporary camp. As one woman said: Women go to a camp called Yulpata. Men take wives and children who don't drink, scared around, kids. They might go Friday, or Saturday and come back Sunday or Monday. They come back when it's finished. However, there are limits now upon this stress management technique. Not everyone has access to a vehicle; some people are unwilling to leave elderly or ill relatives behind; and such moves, even if temporary, disrupt children's attendance at school. Living in concentrated populations of up to 500 people means that life is more stressful in a number of ways, and mobility is not a feasible solution to all the stresses of modern life. Ritual was (and is) another mechanism for controlling and diffusing conflict, and Western Desert people still engage in certain practices which serve to express trust and empathy with others, and to signify the putting aside of grievances. 31