Territory Stories

Parliamentary record : Part I debates (16 August 1990)



Parliamentary record : Part I debates (16 August 1990)


Debates for 5th Assembly 1987 - 1990; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 5th Assembly 1987 - 1990




Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





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Northern Territory Legislative Assembly

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES - Thursday 16 August 1990 of thei r own peop 1 e, that would be a very salutary experi ence for them and one which could well bring about a change in attitude. There are so few solutions or partial solutions around that I believe this one is worth a try. If it does not work, we can amend it or change it. When someone of Bill Ferguson's i ntegri ty makes such a suggest ion, I bel i eve that it is worth pricking our ears up and seeing how it might be implemented. He has a wide knowledge of Aboriginal people and, if it helps the communities concerned, it is worth a try. I appreciate the chairman's report and the comments of honourable members. The problem is a very big one, as I am sure future reports will poi nt out. We need sol ut ions, or even part i also 1 ut ions, and we wi 11 need to look at each proposal seriously and give it a go. If we do not do that, if we just sit here and wring our hands till the cows come home, nothing will happen. We have to take the advice we receive from the community and see how we might implement it in a fair and even-handed way across the whole community. If it works well, or works partially, then well and good. Mr SMITH (Opposition Leader): Mr Speaker, the most recent figure I have heard, and I am never qui te sure whether the member for Ara 1 uen has owned up to it, although he has certainly been quoted as giving it, is that a 1 coho 1 costs the Northern Territory community $2000m a year. That is an incredible amount of money, an incredible waste of resources, and an incredible waste of lives. It is very encouraging indeed that this committee has been established and is starting to work, and that members of parliament on both sides are starting to address the problems. Personally, I find that some of the suggested solutions are rather abhorrent. However, we are certainly at the stage where people should be free to suggest solutions and have them examined in a calm environment, because we have a major problem. I bel ieve that the Chief Minister is coming at the problem from the wrong end, but I do not want to talk about that tonight. In my view, alcohol abuse is a symptom of a much greater malaise which individuals and communities have. It is a symptom of dispossession and the breakdown of values and tradi t ions. It is associ ated wi th a sense of hope 1 essness and the effort to drown that hopelessness ina 1 coho 1 I have no doubt that the long-term solution has to be the removal of that sense of hopelessness and the removal of the inferior living conditions which so many people in our community still have to deal with. I do not think that there is much doubt that the standard of living in many Aboriginal communities is enough in itself to encourage people to take to alcohol as a release. As a number of people have said, we must develop a comprehensive approach, because there is no single way to handle the problem. Indeed, there is no single problem, as the chairman of the committee said in what I thought was a very honest observation. Part of the difficulty in the past has always been that no one has been prepared to own to it. The member for Flynn made a comment about that. It has always been someone else's problem. For me, it was wonderfully expressed in Pamela Lyons' report, 'What Everyone Knows About Ali ce' When talking about Tennant Creek, she said: 'The white-collar people in Tennant Creek thought alcohol was the problem of the blue-collar people. The blue-collar people thought it was the problem of the local Aborigines and the local Aborigines thought it was the problem of all those blow-ins from Ali Curung'. Everybody was passing the problem down the line. Something I find encouraging is that, at least in certain communities, people are now starting to own to the problem. A good example of a group of people starting to own to the problem is the Tangentyere Council. It has 9940

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