Protest set for NT alcohol reform meeting

NT Deputy Chief Minister Robyn Lambley

NORTHERN TERRITORY: Protesters are preparing to rally outside a meeting in Alice Springs on alcohol reform called in response to a coroner’s recommendation following an Aboriginal death in police custody.

On Friday Northern Territory Deputy Chief Minister Robyn Lambley, the NT Licensing Commission, community groups and others are meeting in Alice Springs to discuss how to reduce the impact of alcohol in the town.

The meeting was one of the recommendations of NT Coroner Greg Cavanagh when he investigated the death of Kwementyaye Briscoe, who controversially died in police custody in January.

Too much alcohol combined with obstruction of his airways was listed as the cause of death of Mr Briscoe, whose death the coroner said was entirely preventable and caused by inadequate care while in police custody.

Protesters, including some members of Mr Briscoe’s family, have vowed to rally outside the meeting.

Patricia Morton-Thomas, the aunt of Mr Briscoe, has said she was insulted her nephew’s name had been used to push the agenda of the Country Liberal Party (CLP) government and that she wasn’t invited to address those gathered.

“I would like to know what the deputy chief minister is doing to change the culture of racism ingrained in the Northern Territory police force,” Mrs Morton-Thomas said in a recent statement.

The CLP government, which came to office in August, has abandoned a banned drinkers register championed by the former Labor Party administration and has said they will focus on mandatory rehabilitation for problem drunks.

Mrs Morton-Thomas described the planned rehabilitation centres as “concentration camps for black drinkers”.

“The Country Liberals are directly responsible for the alcohol crisis,” she said.

She said in the 1980s, when the CLP was in power, Aboriginal organisations sought in vain to have limitations on the number of liquor licences issued in the NT.

Friday’s meeting will also include representatives from the Alice Springs Town Council, the People’s Alcohol Action Coalition, Central Australian Aboriginal Alcohol Programs Unit, St John Ambulance, and the Australian Hotels Association.

In a statement ahead of the meeting, Ms Lambley said the overwhelming majority of delegates at the meeting live locally.

“While there may be differences in views, the overwhelming motivation of all those in the room is to reduce the harmful effect of alcohol consumption on individuals, families and communities in Central Australia,” Ms Lambley said.

The NT government has come under fire from some groups because its measures to tackle alcohol abuse do not focus on reducing the supply of alcohol or putting a floor price on takeaway drinks.


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