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.
A pastoralist who had operated the Curtin Springs Roadhouse for more than three decades and knew many Aboriginal people in the area, Severin had restricted sales to Pitjantjatjara people at the request of several communities, including Docker River. This system of voluntary restraint by Severin worked well for many years. Because it worked well, the Liquor Commission in 1985 knocked back an objection to renewal of Severin's takeaway licence by the Pitjantjatjara Council, which sought a more binding limitation. (Appendix } ). Then, in January 1988, for reasons that remain unclear, Severin changed his policy. All of a sudden, Curtin Springs was selling takeaway to Pitjantjatjara people. There was a limit on these sales, but it was extraordinarily generous: one carton of beer and one four-litre cask of wine per person per day. Freed from the restrictive six-can limit at Mt. Ebenezer, drinkers from Imanpa flocked to Curtin Springs. So did drinkers from Mutitjulu Community at Ayers Rock and Docker River as well as those from Amata, Ernabella and as far away as Pipalyatjara in South Australia. Grog was consumed in camps near Curtin Springs, on the road, and in the communities, where it was shared among others. Alcohol from Curtin Springs even filtered into the Ngaanyatjarra communities in Western Australia. Everywhere the alcohol found its way, violence and community disruption followed. Police in South Australia reported alarming increases in incidents of public intoxication, violence and other alcohol-related offences, especially at Amata and Ernabella. Nursing sisters at Mutitjulu (Ayers Rock) and Amata reported similar rises in cases of alcohol-related trauma and injury and apparent child neglect. As adult authority broke down under the influence of alcohol, petrol sniffing among children and young people also increased. Violence escalated at Imanpa, too. As damaging was the fact that the community development work that had been so central to the community's attempts to come to grips with its own alcohol problems came to a standstill. By doing for themselves, largely without help installing a water system and power supply, building houses, qualifying for a bank loan to buy the roadhouse the community had gained the collective confidence to tackle their substance abuse problems. These efforts floundered in the flood of alcohol from Curtin Springs. 5