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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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I. CHARLIE AND MELVA - AN INTRODUCTION ** "Individual choice [regarding alcohol consumption] without government support will fail." Geoff Langford, Imanpa Community Advisor 1981-1990 Charlie Okai and Melva Mula never had much of a chance. Born of an alcoholic union, Charlie Okai, a Pitjantjatjara man from South Australia, was packed off at an early age by his heavy-drinking mother to be raised by relatives at Imanpa, an Aboriginal community near the Lasseter Highway in the Northern Territory. His father died when Charlie was young, apparently from injuries sustained in a grog-fueled fight. He was brought up by another heavy drinker and his abstinent wife. Imanpa was not the best place to grow to manhood. It was a community of Pitjantjatjara people who had been forcibly dispersed from the tourist track to Ayers Rock in the 1950s and '60s, and who, when they drifted back in the 1970s under increasingly less coercive government "native welfare" policies, grouped around the Mt. Ebenezer Roadhouse. The "community" as such first coalesced as a grog camp near the roadhouse. Even after it was granted an excision and gained more and more of a community identity - with a surprising degree of social cohesion and impressive communal achievements in the face of formidable odds - Imanpa retained its heavy drinking character and its dependence on the roadhouse. Virtually everybody drank. For Charlie Okai to have become anything but a drinker would have been an aberration. Two of his brothers became heavy petrol sniffers. The youngest, whom he loved dearly, drowned in a water tank in a petrol-induced daze. He was 15 years old. Charlie never got over it. 3