Submission Sessional Committee on the Use and Abuse of Alcohol by the Community 051 Pitjantjatjara Council Inc
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.
The construction of personal and interpersonal authority among many Aboriginal groups is such that overt assertiveness over others is not a valued quality. There are no heavy-handed leaders who can administer corporate sanctions to their members. Added to this is a strong respect for the rights of the individual to get on with his or her own business. Although the activities of others may be subject to gossip and direct disapproval, it is rare for criticisms of an individual to be made to his face. Drinking, like many other activities of daily life, is considered to be someone's "own business", even if it adversely affects that person and others in the community. Drinking, too, is often considered "a right", earned by Aboriginal people throughout the years of prohibition, and associated by them with the notion of "citizenship". Because of earlier prohibition, drinking rights became associated with equality by Aboriginal people: they were a symbol of status. These factors, respect for the automony of the individual, and the belief that drinking is "a right", both serve to explain why it is that Aboriginal people in the Western Desert region are unwilling to intervene actively with those who bring alcohol into their communities, and equally unwilling to deal with the disruption that often follows alcohol use. In the next section, we will see how one Pitjantjatjara community, with great difficulty and against formidable odds, attempted to overcome problems associated with widespread alcohol abuse.