Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 14 February 2007
Parliamentary Record 12
Debates for 10th Assembly 2005 - 2008; 10th Assembly 2005 - 2008; Parliamentary Record; ParliamentNT
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES Wednesday 14 February 2007 3862 backblocks dedicating their lives to combating this problem, they are largely not seen. Those indigenous leaders - particularly the men who have made a decision not to drink because they have seen the horror of it and the destructive effect of alcohol in their own lives and families - who have made a quality decision not to drink are heroes and need to be the catalyst for greater and more concerted action that will result in more being able to stand up and say: I am now in control of this, and I do so for the sake of the young ones. I remember, most notably, two men with whom I spoke at Wadeye, and I wondered why they had chosen to take a leadership role. They told me their story. Once they were the worst of the worst, and they saw how bad they were and changed, and now have decided to fight the good fight. It is they and many others that I use as inspiration to continue my comments and whatever I can do to make a change in this area. I dedicate my comments to the indigenous men particularly who have made that quality decision to live a life alongside of and, in many cases, abstaining from alcohol so that they can make a difference. These stories need to be told. They need to be understood and respected by many people who have discussions around our barbecues and feed a perception that is decidedly negative and has other factors that drive it, one being poverty and dislocation from the economic mainstream. Those issues aside, it is the data, the facts, the information we require. There was reference made in the ministers statement to Living with Alcohol. It is a program that has been spoken about with respect from both sides of the Chamber. That is heartening because we do recognise the problem and we have seen a program that has worked. We have recorded the reasons why that program ceased to operate. It was as a result of removal of a very important funding stream. I acknowledge that the underlying principles of the program itself were not continued, and that is a disappointment because those underlying principles still speak to us today. I understand, too, that the funding stream that was ceased as a result of a High Court decision was replaced by the Commonwealth in another form. I need to investigate that. Maybe the minister knows. Did that replaced funding stream by the Commonwealth continue to flow? Did it continue to flow in the same measure, and to what use was it put, and is it being put today? In referring to the principles that guided the Living with Alcohol framework, I will say as a member of the opposition that those principles will hold the keys to a sound strategy to turn us around once again. There is a lot of activity at the moment, and I note the reference to the different enterprises in place in different communities. I am playing some small part in Palmerston and have observed at close quarters what is going on in Katherine. I applaud those communities that are getting together and endeavouring to come up with a framework or plan to deal with the problem in their own communities. That is very important because there is local ownership of the problem. More importantly, you have that essential ingredient, but there is nothing worse than raising the expectations of a community in response to a deadly serious problem and not being able to have the underlying principles that will drive that enthusiasm, conviction, commitment and ownership by local communities through to success. There comes this opportune time. If you have the community on board, they have developed their plan, and there are not the resources behind to ensure that they have immediate success, you end up with compounding disappointment, and that is a grave concern. Therefore, I urge the minister to assess the levels of deeper resourcing to the implementation in a very timely manner. We are talking about people; we are not talking about processes and bureaucracies. We are talking about people who are living in communities who are largely volunteers desirous of some change. Let their desire and their earnest expectation not be dashed by slow bureaucratic processes. It is absolutely critical because if that does occur, we might be able to tick boxes and have further statements, but we have disappointed folk out in the backblocks who have gotten themselves together in the hope that something might happen. It might just linger on. There are lots of stakeholders and interest groups who will compete amongst themselves and, sadly, if it is left too late, those who have an interest to sell a little more alcohol or to compromise the plan in one way or another. We will still have the problem largely unaddressed to re-emerge another day. I have not been in this Chamber for 28 years and it would appear that from comments that have been made most noticeably in a few addresses back, that there should be a war crimes tribunal for members of the former regime who decimated the Northern Territory. I was not a member of the former regime. There were some good things that happened in the past. Of course, when there is a change of government, which could happen, are we going to say: Look at the terrible, terrible things. We might have a war crimes tribunal as well about the terrible, terrible things that happened? Put that silly business aside, if you do not mind.