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Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs
Harmful use of alcohol in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
House of Reps
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Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs
Price, Melissa, MP
Scott, Fiona, MP
Neumann, Shayne, MP
ACTING CHAIR (Mr Snowdon)
Snowdon, Warren, MP
Ramsey, Rowan, MP
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Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs
(House of Reps-Friday, 5 September 2014)
CHAIR (Dr Stone)
ACTING CHAIR (Mr Snowdon)
CHAIR (Mr Ramsey)
ACTING CHAIR (Mr Snowdon)
- Mr RAMSEY
Content WindowStanding Committee on Indigenous Affairs - 05/09/2014 - Harmful use of alcohol in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
BOULTON, Professor Thomas John Carson, Private capacity
ACTING CHAIR: I welcome Professor Boulton. Do you have any comments on the capacity in which you appear before the committee today?
Prof. Boulton : Good morning. I am here from the Kimberley Paediatric and Child Health Service. My role was head of paediatrics. I have stepped down from clinical work. I also have a formal advisory capacity with the Telethon Kids, which was previously the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, with respect to Aboriginal child health research in the Kimberley. My other academic affiliations: I have an honorary professorial appointment at Sydney University in the Centre for Values, Ethics, Law and Medicine and an adjunct professorial position at the University of Notre Dame Broome campus and Fremantle. Just for interest, I have a visiting professorship in the Centre for Medical Humanities in Leeds in the UK, where I am doing work on children's history.
ACTING CHAIR: John, before you go on I will introduce the committee to you, even though as a professor I am sure you can read. I am Rowan Ramsey, the member for Grey in South Australia and acting chair just for this morning while someone else has stepped out. You might know this lady on my right.
Ms PRICE: I am sure he will not know me, but by the end of this we will be very familiar with one another. I am the federal member for Durack, so I am the new Barry Haase. Durack takes in two-thirds of Western Australia and obviously takes in the Kimberley as well. Welcome.
Ms SCOTT: I am the member for Lindsay, which is in Western Sydney. As you are probably aware, Western Sydney has one of the largest Aboriginal populations in the country in the outer metropolitan regions.
Mr NEUMANN: I am the federal member for Blair, which is based in Ipswich and Somerset in South-East Queensland. I am Labor's shadow minister for Indigenous affairs and ageing.
ACTING CHAIR: John, I invite you to make some opening comments and then we will move on to questions.
Prof. Boulton : I have prepared notes with respect to a kind of overview—and the macrocosm and microcosm—of alcohol and how it destroys Aboriginal communities, and particularly parenting. But after hearing the last speaker I might follow on with respect to your questions because they are quite relevant in terms of both justice and domestic violence.
With respect to juvenile justice, I initiated something we are calling the Kimberley alternative juvenile justice strategy. I am happy to give you a draft of the final submission. The gist of it is that—through my advocacy of children who, having seen their local friendly paediatrician are now in juvenile justice—I suggested to the local member, Josie Farrer, who is an Aboriginal woman from Halls Creek, that we set up a network of Aboriginal NGOs, corporations and IPAs, Indigenous Protected Areas, with mainstream health, DCP and education organisations to shift the paradigm from one of punishment to one of compassion.
The objectives of the strategy are that Aboriginal children from the Kimberley do not go to Perth to prison and that we provide a humanitarian, educational based approach for children. I propose that, for children who are required to be in detention, we construct a situation which is more like a school, so they can learn some life skills. I am talking about children whose contact with juvenile justice staggeringly starts at 10 and goes up to 17. I propose that we create a situation whereby those children can be looked after basically in places where they cannot steal cars and do bad stuff, far away from anywhere, with a constructive program. It would a program which Aboriginal rangers, for example, in the remote outstations, could mentor these young people. It is common sense. It would be cost effective. A kid in jail in Perth costs $80,000 to $100,000 a year.
It would also be something which my Aboriginal friends want to do. People in Walmadjarri, people from Fitzroy crossing and north of that, the Bunuba, and, in Halls Creek, the Kija and Jaru people, have a huge amount of land and a lot of outstations, where many of them—as you know, Melissa—are looking for a purpose. They also need money for infrastructure, particularly electricity.
That is what we are aiming to do, and we hope to get a bipartisan approach in due course. This project is being run out of Josie Farrer's office, and I am—
ACTING CHAIR: Is she the state member?
Ms PRICE: She is the state member for Kimberley.
Prof. Boulton : Sorry, she is the MLA for the Kimberley.
So, watch this space. Hopefully, we will get some action on this. I am obviously not politically aligned at all. Later, I am seeing Warren Mundine to try and get his support because that is what he has been talking about—basically a different approach to get these kids off Anne Street in Broome, stealing cars and doing bad stuff, and into the bush.
Ms PRICE: Which arm of government were you hoping to get funding from?
Prof. Boulton : At the moment, this is just me working with her officer. We do not have funding. I would like funding, because what we need is a tiny academic base so that we can get the data and do the cost-benefit analysis. That really needs someone with an economic background so that they can crunch the numbers.
I have a working link with a professor of criminology at UWA. Also I have a formal liaison—and I am good friends—with the people at Nulungu Centre of Indigenous Studies at Notre Dame. They are linked, as you know, with Kimberley Institute—Pat Dodson and Paul Lane, and those people. They have actually got something going with what I think they call 'native horticultural trees'. They are going to use that as a base to bring in Aboriginal people to work on, particularly, gubinge.
My work in Josie Farrer's office is through Mala Croft—who is her office person who is doing a lot of the work. It is at the moment in a state of being unfunded, but I would obviously appreciate advice. That is something that is happening.
In terms of domestic violence, following on from the previous speaker, my role as a paediatrician is seeing children who are suffering the consequences of early-life trauma from witnessing domestic violence and being victims of child sexual abuse, which probably occurs for 30 to 40 per cent of female children in the Kimberley. Most of this is intrafamilial. It is sexual interference, not violent assault. So, although I have been involved with forensic examinations of children who are victims of child sexual abuse, we now do very few forensic examinations because DCP manage most of these cases through evidentiary interviews via the police and almost all of it is intrafamilial. Very few cases are not. That is my professional experience.
In terms of what I know from my work, working with Aboriginal people, particularly at the Marninwarntikura Women's Resource Centre in Fitzroy Crossing, which you will be very familiar with, which is led by June Oscar, that is the model that provides the best answer in terms of local empowerment, where some powerful, articulate women have created a structure where everybody has agreed to work together and get their act together, and that does actually provide it. In the Fitzroy data, the key thing is that, having brought in the alcohol restrictions in September 2007, the number of women who need protection has fallen dramatically.
In Halls Creek, as you know, they have a women's shelter. I am not sure who runs it. I think it is an independent business rather than being under the umbrella of something like Marninwarntikura, or it could be run under Wunan from Kununurra. I do not know so much about that. I know more about the Fitzroy Crossing situation. That is my take on it: alcohol, as we know, is the fuel on the fire of domestic violence.
I have a macro view, a micro view and a biological view. In terms of time, I will start with the biological view, within what is called economic anthropology, which is the use of measurements of humans which reflect the economic resources directed to them—that is, weight and height. That has been used particularly historically with respect to, for example, convicts in Sydney and the poor in Victorian London. Height is a measure of what is called parental investment and human social capacity.
Aboriginal children suffer growth faltering, which is a delay and a slowing down of growth after they have finished breastfeeding. The result is that they end up much shorter than they otherwise would have been. Since colonisation, where Aboriginal people were taller than British sailors in 1788, Aboriginal people are now shorter than non-Aboriginal people. This is an effect of what economists call the nutritional ghetto, meaning there is a subsection of the population—Aboriginal people and remote Australia; much less so in urban areas—whose children suffer persistent and systematic nutritional deprivation. I have been studying that. There is what I found through analysis of the Liliwan data, which is run by my very close friend James Fitzpatrick. I got medical students to dig up the data on the children and look at the handwritten records of the nurses and write down their heights and weights in early childhood. Then I took off the community health records for children born after the alcohol intervention, between 2009 and 2011. We found that children in the Liliwan cohort who were born in 2002 and 2003 had exactly the same pattern of growth as children studied by Mike Gracey in the 1980s and by David Atkinson in Fitzroy Crossing in the 1980s, and they even the same pattern as children born in Yirrkala in the 1950s. But for children born after the alcohol intervention, at 12 months there was a 500 gram difference in weight. So, for the pattern of growth, all the lines intersected from the 1960s, 70s and 80s, and then the children born after alcohol intervention were much bigger. This is a second-order metric measure of better parental investment—basically more food. There is more food available after the alcohol intervention. My friends at Notre Dame conducted—it was done by the alcohol division in Perth, they funded it—six-month and 12-month outcome study of what happened in Halls Creek and Fitzroy Crossing, and what they found was that more money was being spent on food and children's clothing, as well as measuring a marked difference, as you have heard in many submissions, in terms of domestic violence and assaults. This data I am mentioning, which I am in the process of trying to write it up for publication, shows that there is a biological effect of that, which is the first hard data we have. That is all I was going to say about biology. You might like to ask questions, because I am just going to go on to more theoretical things after that.
Ms PRICE: Regarding the prevalence of FASD, is that also being tested and coming up in those statistics?
Prof. Boulton : The background to this is that on a horrible day in Fitzroy Crossing when no-one turned up for my clinic because someone had been killed the night before and there was a funeral, I pulled off my computer all of the children under five I had seen and of those kids I had seen 45 with foetal alcohol syndrome. Not the spectrum disorder—these children were small, with small heads and abnormal features.
Ms PRICE: Out of how many?
Prof. Boulton : The denominator was about 250 children under five at that time. That was in about 2006. I then talked to people in the Telethon Institute, and the moment passed. It took James Fitzpatrick, with his remarkable entrepreneurial and personal skills, to actually generate the momentum that ended up with the 'little ones' study. Off the record, because it is not published, almost a third of children are affected. Certainly over a quarter. He will have told you in his submission that foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, FASD, which is the preferred term now, incorporates both foetal alcohol syndrome, which is what we paediatricians can recognise clinically, through to alcohol brain effects, who are completely normal-looking five year olds who cannot sit still and who have difficulty in abstract concepts but also in patterns and drawings and things.
The interesting feature of the psychometric studies done on these children by the leading American psychologist who was in the study was that the individual domains of these various cognitive tests were very uneven for any individual child. So, in contrast, a child with Down syndrome, for example, who is intellectually impaired, would have a consistent diminishment of understanding, speaking and doing stuff. These children were highly variable. James is trying to get this published. He is working extremely hard and he has incredibly good data, but it has not actually hit the medical press yet. But a lot of it has been leaked. Everybody basically knows the data.
ACTING CHAIR: I have a question about something you said earlier about child sexual abuse, and relating this back to the communities that I represent, where we had an enormous breakout at one stage—I would not say it is all that good now.
Prof. Boulton : APY lands?
ACTING CHAIR: Yes. It was peer sexual interference and not necessarily older people. They might be older but only two or three years older. But it was children actually molesting younger children and abusing them. Can you comment on that and whether that is also what you saw in the Kimberleys?
Prof. Boulton : I read the Mullighan report a couple of days ago. I am also very familiar with the lead of child sexual abuse of in Adelaide Children's Hospital—he is a friend of mine. So I was familiar with that data a few years ago. What they recorded there is fairly consistent in remote Australia. But the fact that the perpetrator identified as teenage boys is an indicator that they themselves have been abused, which everyone recognises. It is obvious. In all those terrible cases in Queensland those quite young people had all been terribly abused when they were little. That is a tragedy. It is also worth stating that, as Mullighan stated in his report, the elders explained to him this was not present even as late as 1970.
I have systematically studied the anthropological literature—I am in the process of writing a book that is 120,000 words so far—on the ethnography of Aboriginal parenting in, as it were, the early days. There is absolutely no evidence at all of systematic sexual interference with small children. In fact it is quite the opposite. There was some ritual stuff going on, which is now actively being lost in the mists of time, because the senior men are not very proud of the record of what they did to young unmarried men. But that was more in terms of a kind of ritual. It was not within the context of violence and powerlessness, which is what happens now.
ACTING CHAIR: That situation still exists—the coming of age, or whatever. Thank you for that. I do not want to hold you back, because I know you want to get onto some different areas, and we will run out of time.
Prof. Boulton : I wanted to also mention that I was head of paediatrics in Nepean for five years, and I went to Daruk Aboriginal Medical Service every week. So I actually know that community. I used to know it very well and I visited again last year. The child sexual abuse and child physical abuse situation is actually quite different from in the Kimberley. In those days we had 100 children born in Nepean Hospital who suffered opiate addiction from maternal heroin use or methadone. I used to go to Emu Plains prison, because a lot of these women were in jail. It actually is a different demographic and dynamic situation there.
Ms SCOTT: Very much so.
Prof. Boulton : It is inner city and seriously bad stuff to do with heroin use in those days. There was a huge amount of physical violence going on, which you will be very familiar with. I have put that in perspective so that you know that I know where you are coming from in terms of Lindsay.
Ms SCOTT: I totally appreciate your putting that on the record. This is the only parliamentary committee I am on because the driving factor for me as a member of parliament is its importance to the Aboriginal community who live in the outer suburbs of Western Sydney, and some of the challenges they see. Being part of this committee I have seen different Aboriginal communities, including what we see in the outer suburbs like Penrith, and what you have seen at Nepean Hospital and the women's facility at Emu Plains, which you accurately raised. The Aboriginal community living on the border of Lindsay and Chifley, which is one of the largest Aboriginal populations in the country, is quite different to what you would see in Redfern and other metropolitan communities, and it is also very different to what you would see in rural and remote areas. What do you think is important in the outer metropolitan communities to try to tackle some of the issues such as FASD and domestic violence? The communities in outer metropolitan areas are sometimes overlooked because they are not under the noses of people in the city and they are not in the rural and remote areas. It is kind of a missing chasm in the middle. It is one of the biggest missing chasms. It is an area that I think needs so much help.
Prof. Boulton : I was there from 1997 to 2001, and I know the demography has changed substantially with respect to Pacific Islander immigration into that area. What I saw was that most of the families were second or third generation from quite far west. Many had connections with Far-West New South Wales and also some Gamilaroy people from Northern New South Wales. The striking thing about the young women I saw who were the mums of these babies was that their mothers were mostly in their 40s and 50s and a very high percentage of those women had suffered terrible effects from alcohol when they were young women, and had been horribly abused—basically socioeconomically abused, or in other ways. They had lived most of their lives in the cities. Some tried to keep a connection with the bush, but it was very different. A very high percentage of their young daughters, who were mostly 19 or 20, in those days were on hard drugs—heroin. This was before ice and methamphetamine, thank goodness. But there was some cocaine use.
So in terms of your question about what to do, we have not come up with a better solution than targeted support for these young women so they can get the level of physical support they need in terms of being a mother and what we call parental investment—looking after their babies. I do not know the cost-benefit of this, but in those days I was interested in the idea of voluntary 'aunties', and certainly the studies that have been done—not in Western Sydney but in others places. These were middle-aged women who went out to provide moral and practical support to young women. It actually had quite a beneficial effect. That fits in with the resilience literature: for disadvantaged people to have one person in their life they can really trust it actually helps a lot. This makes common sense, but there is a literature on this.
There is a bit of a segue now into what I was going to say about the biology. It gets a bit theoretical but it is relevant. It is the concept of parental investment. From a white, middle-class perspective what we see is actually a biological anomaly in human history, and that is increasing age of first child, a large birth space interval and what anthropologists call a high level of parental investment—that is both time and energy. But that has been commodified. So instead of the human pattern of having what is called allomothers—that is, other mothers, aunties and grannies—which is throughout 99 per cent of human history and remains in Aboriginal communities the standard pattern, our young professional women and working women send their babies to day care. So the day care provides the alloparenting which up until very recently was provided by relatives.
As you know, with greater education, the age of producing a first child is going up. It is now in the late 30s for the most highly educated women in this country. For the least educated girls it is actually going down. This is strikingly evident in Afro-Americans and also in the underclass in Britain, where it has been more studied. The pattern of high parental investment is predicated on, dependent on, low mortality in babyhood—low infant mortality, so if you have a baby in the baby is going to survive: low mortality in childhood, so the child is not going to die of meningitis, like they could well have done in the 1870s; and also a low mortality of young men, so the dad is going to be around. This makes it worthwhile in a biological sense—not consciously but in a biological sense—to invest in your child.
If there is a very high mortality amongst young men, typically in remote Aboriginal communities through violence, particularly road accidents, cardiovascular disease—stroke and heart attack from diabetes—then what happens is that age of first child goes down. Now in remote Aboriginal communities about one-third of babies are born to teenage girls and the birth interval diminishes, so we have more babies quicker. This is consciously explained by, 'Because my people are dying younger, I want my babies to see their granny.' My Aboriginal friends in Broome, for example, say, 'My mother lived to their 80s, but now my aunties are dying in their 50s and 60s from diabetes.' So this is actually known within the remote Aboriginal communities.
Ms SCOTT: Can I build on something there? I think with culture and the connection within family groupings there are two elements—and I will come back around to where we were at—at either end of the human life cycle, both birth and death, and the ability for children to be born on country, die on country. You use the terminology of people coming from the outer west into say, Western Sydney, and losing a connection to the bush.
Being that in Western Sydney there are land councils that do have substantial landholdings, how can land councils, who have some sacred land, work with some of these communities to help that connection to land? Also within that looking at aged care facilities for Aboriginal people that really does allow the culture of those aunties and uncles to be part of the children's life to reconstruct somehow that whole culture. Is there something in Western Sydney we do need to look as to how we could potentially pull some of these threads together? We do have bits of the Cumberland Conservation Corridor still there. Three-quarters of a million Aboriginal artefacts have been taken off the Penrith Lakes. It is now a critically endangered habitat. There is only seven per cent of this bushland left. It was crucial country, because it was the freshwater plain that Aboriginal people traded on and farmed on. It was one of the most important parts of Aboriginal economics and hence there are a lot of sacred sites. We have lost a lot of the nation boundaries out there and e are seeing such rapid growth in Western Sydney.
Interlacing these things, it means we are culturally disconnecting Aboriginal people more to country. It is not just Aboriginal people from out west; it is even the Darug people that are still there. How can we potentially save what we have is within this? Is that a part of the culture we need to reconstruct here? I know it was a very complex question.
Prof. Boulton : It is an incredibly important question. I am a kids doctor, so what I am going to say is obviously not speaking as a medical specialist but speaking as someone who is profoundly interested in this and has friendships and working relationships with senior Aboriginal people, particularly from Yawuru and Bunaba. There is a counterintuitive experiment, which is that people in Melbourne, Sydney or Adelaide could actually learn from the bush. This might appeal to you, Melissa. The reason is that the dynamic of whatever problem there is in a small place is easier to see from the outside, because the problem is not quite as 'wicked' in terms of its complexity. So actually the causal factors are more obvious. If you add a historical dimension to it, it then also becomes more obvious. In which case you can then, having got an analytic framework, apply that to a phenomenally complicated place like where you are, where the factors and influences are just mindbogglingly complex. On the basis of that, what the Yawuru people are doing in Broome is actually a model to look at—that is the Yawuru Corporation and the Kimberley Institute.
Ms SCOTT: Warren is back.
Prof. Boulton : Hello, I am John Boulton. We have actually met in Darwin a long while ago.
ACTING CHAIR ( Mr Snowdon ): We have.
Prof. Boulton : I could use as my introduction that I am a very close friend of James Kirkpatrick.
Mr SNOWDON: I know.
Prof. Boulton : You know that from him. I was using the example of learning from the bush to apply to complex metropolitan situation and suggesting, in terms of the use of land and land councils to address complex urban problems of parenting and disintegration of traditional parenting, the Yawuru model through the Kimberley Institute and the Yawuru Corporation with the land they have got in Broome—and they have actually just now got another land settlement. They are actually building something in Broome. Likewise, in Fitzroy Crossing.
Ms SCOTT: What are they building?
Prof. Boulton : They are building what is called a wellness centre. They will have a Yawuru name for it. The idea is to do precisely what you are asking about, which is to draw in both cultural strength by, as June Oscar says, cultural reinvigoration, by empowering people who previously felt within the white mainstream world that they did not have a voice, did not have agency. With their own buildings, land et cetera, they can actually put into practice the things that you are suggesting. That is a good model.
Again, in the very much smaller place of Fitzroy Crossing, it is really very interesting because the dynamic is quite clear. That is what June and Emily Carter and Maureen and people are doing. No-one from Victoria here, but I have a connection now with Latrobe university—
Ms SCOTT: Just to clarify. The connection of the elders on land with young mothers is crucial in helping to break some of this cycle?
Prof. Boulton : Yes.
Ms SCOTT: Do you have any research that you could provide to the committee on that?
Prof. Boulton : Not directly, particularly for the demographic you are looking at. Within my knowledge of the anthropological literature, the situation with back on country and health is actually very complex. And although the Utopia situation is talked about a lot, it is not at all clear. Dr Paul Burgess has done work in Maningrida and he has some really interesting biological data about it. But that is to do basically with middle-age and older men who spend more time out bush having lower blood pressure and better blood glucose levels. It is not what you are talking about. It is a bit different in that it is the urban situation, which is why I am mentioning Broome. I think that is a better model.
As an example, a Yorta Yorta woman who works at La Trobe University as a professional academic has just had a week up in Fitzroy Crossing. What she learned she is hoping to discuss with her uncles in Shepparton. I am going there next Wednesday to discuss that because that is exactly the sort of thing they want to learn from Fitzroy Crossing, a place which has actually got its act together, metaphorically speaking, and is saturated in culture. The people in Shepparton and wherever are very envious, I am sure, how they can draw those things together with a result. The data I collected on growth after the Lililwan project and after the alcohol intervention showed babies at one year were much much heavier, so there is a direct effect.
ACTING CHAIR: I had a feeling there was something more you wanted to take us through but we have run out of time. If you are happy with the way it is going, that is fine. I do not want to cut you off.
Prof. Boulton : Going back to what I was saying about parental investment, the anthropological models show when human reproduction is under stress, women have babies earlier et cetera. The point is that alcohol has got a huge role in that, an enormous role. That is in part through the death of young men at one end and through domestic violence, which we have talked about previously.
I was talking about parental investment of white middle-class people having babies later and disadvantaged people in Baltimore Leeds, Birmingham, Sydney and Fitzroy Crossing having them earlier. So having babies earlier, faster and the young men being disengaged is not an Aboriginal thing; it is a human thing. In America it is very obviously to do with the drug scene and they have very low investment. African American women in poor suburbs do better without a male partner, amazingly. So that is the worst biological end.
Mr NEUMANN: I would like to know what are the consequences of that. You have mentioned that twice now. Lead on to where that goes.
Prof. Boulton : What happens is we are knee-deep in babies without the aunties and grannies to help these 19-year-old mothers look after them. They, like any 19-year-old girl, want to have fun and they dump the baby as everybody knows. This is written up in great detail in a great document called: Growing Up Our Way by SNAICC. That is a huge problem throughout Northern and Central Australia. Stepping back to get three categories of perspective, because we did not talk about the ground floor, and turning the page to a new chapter, I think this discourse should be considered under three categories.
Alcohol within the history of Australian society from 1800, because the current use of alcohol by youth in Australia—and for that matter young people in Britain—is actually getting different from what it was in the1970s and eighties. The discourse on this is conflicted. Someone mentioned earlier on the one punch legislation of New South Wales and also what is called the Newcastle model, which is of relatively early closing—at one o'clock, you cannot get back into a pub—that has had a big effect in Newcastle on serious crime.
The next level down is alcohol within Aboriginal Australia, the history of legislation to do with alcohol with Aboriginal citizens and what anthropologists call the 'body count', with Albert Namatjira being the most tragic example. He was the victim of legislation. In Queensland, Aurukun has a history of wet and dry communities and, again, the body count of murder in Aurukun according to that. There is a book called From Hunting to Drinking: The Devastating Effects of Alcohol on an Australian Aboriginal Community, which was about an island in the Gulf. In the Kimberley, specifically, there is a monopoly of one owner who owns in the country club Kununurra, Matsos's in Broome and the Kimberley Hotel in Halls Creek. He runs the Kimberley Hotel, as you know, with an 'animal bar', which is appalling and it still happens. Dinner Camp in Halls Creek is a lot better now. With federal funds they are building a housing estate, which is way better. I used to work with the police picking up babies who were basically left on the ground with unconscious parents—it was that bad. It was like 1820s London except in Halls Creek; it was appalling.
In Fitzroy Crossing there is a paradox. What happens? Who owns alcohol in Fitzroy Crossing? You know the figures around the amount of money spent on alcohol but how is it that an Aboriginal organisation owns the pub and is responsible for alcohol? What happens in Marra Worra Worra? These are things white people dare not ask because I think there is a huge underlying hypocrisy going on there in who owns the alcohol. If $7 million is spent on 1,200 people or whatever it is then someone is making a huge amount of money out of human misery in those two small towns.
The third level is alcohol within the micro society of an Aboriginal community. This gets onto the ethnographic things about the kinship obligations to drink. Do you remember years ago that Wollongong advert 'the Steel Man of Wollongong'? The point was he was a man of steel because he told his mates, 'No, mate. I am not having a beer. I am driving home and having dinner with my wife and family.' That advert was very powerful and it played on the individualistic thing that I am strong because I can tell my mates, 'You are being an idiot; I am going home to look after my wife and kids.' In Aboriginal society that does not occur because a young man who does not drink with his mates and with his uncles loses the prestige or ownership of that kinship group. This is a huge problem and does not apply to a western model of aspiring to the real tough guys to look after their mates not letting them drink and drive.
There is also the absence of cultural external boundaries. In the old days, young Aboriginal men had huge boundaries set by their elders. If they stepped out of line they would get seriously beaten and there was huge pressure to conform. Those are not there from a long time ago. Anthropologists call saying 'I have been wronged and I am going to shout and scream and beat someone up about this' performative violence. People are not controlled when they are undergoing performative violence and it is much worse with alcohol. That applies also to payback. Bess Price says that is not what happened in the old days. Payback was finished but this payback has been going on for 10 years or longer. And she said that is partly driven by alcohol. She is, you can imagine, unbelievably upset about this. Of course, the effect on children of drunk young men beating the hell out of their girlfriends is early life trauma. The Marulu project in Fitzroy Crossing is for the prevention of foetal alcohol spectrum disorder and early life trauma.
In parallel with those three categories of looking at alcohol, you could also say in the early 1800s the violence was vertical—that is, white people shooting black people. In the last 40 years it has been lateral violence and we see this played out in the national press. There is a huge abusive discourse between senior Aboriginal people and professors of Indigenous studies abusing the hell out of each other, with white people standing back and asking: what?
I see the lateral violence within the community—which is girls getting seriously beaten up and huge levels of homicide—being a subset of what we see played out in the national press which is to do with the very abusive discourse that goes on. I do not think that does anybody any good. It just destroys a public dialogue and a way forward. That has been encapsulated within the historical perspective of the way violence was used by our ancestors in the 1800s.
Mr RAMSEY: Thank you very much. You will be sent a copy of the Hansard transcript which you can make corrections to if you wish. I will now hand over to Mr Snowdon.
ACTING CHAIR ( Mr Snowdon ): My apologies for not being here when you started your evidence. We will meet again. Thank you.