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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
Perrett, Graham, MP
Snowdon, Warren, MP
Coulton, Mark, MP
Neumann, Shayne, MP
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Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs
(House of Reps-Tuesday, 17 February 2015)
CHAIR (Dr Stone)
- Ms PRICE
Content WindowStanding Committee on Indigenous Affairs - 17/02/2015 - Harmful use of alcohol in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
PATTERSON, Mr Ian, Client Support Officer, Gindaja Treatment and Healing Indigenous Corporation
THOMAS, Ms Lyndel Maree, Coordinator, Gindaja Treatment and Healing Indigenous Corporation
WHITE, Dr Timothy Joseph, Psychologist, Gindaja Treatment and Healing Indigenous Corporation
YEATMAN, Mrs Thelma, Treatment Program Manager, Gindaja Treatment and Healing Indigenous Corporation
CHAIR: Thank you for joining us. We began today's hearing with an acknowledgement of country. As you know, we are inquiring into the harmful effects of alcohol on Indigenous communities, acknowledging that the harmful impacts of alcohol consumption are not by any means confined to Indigenous communities at all. But we happen to be the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander standing committee and we also acknowledge that, with Indigenous communities, often there is a greater impact on those who do drink, given their special circumstances. We welcome you very much to the table. Our members are all from mainland Australia and many of us have very significant Indigenous populations in our electorates. Would all or one of you like to make an opening statement?
Dr White : Would you like me to talk about our service, Gindaja?
CHAIR: We would like to know what you can add to our inquiry, what the best practice is for dealing with high-risk alcohol consumption, what you have found, the trends and all of that.
Dr White : Gindaja is a 22-bed drug-and-alcohol residential facility. The majority of our client group are Indigenous, from Cape York and Cairns. We will take clients from out west too, as far as Mount Isa. We offer a live-in residential service for three months, and often our clients stay for six months. Our focus is on entire health and wellbeing, physical health and mental health. We employ a number of health workers, a psychologist and a nurse within the residential facility, and I will talk about the drop-in centre after I speak about the residential facility.
Clients arrive at our facility to address the myriad welfare issues, social issues, family relationship and health issues. The clients we receive—and it is probably a bad description—are very broken clients. These are clients who are physically and mentally at the end of the road. Most of our clients are a bit like John West fish: these are the clients who do not fit into mainstream institutions.
We pride ourselves on our ability to provide services to that client group. We see clients with significant alcohol issues. Many of our clients start life with foetal alcohol syndrome. We have a number of adults who carry that diagnosis. A large number of our clients have spent significant periods of time in incarceration and mental-health wards. We will receive quite a number of our clients directly from prison, and directly from the psych. ward. It is not unusual for us to be standing at the doors of the psych. ward and take our clients.
We have a very good success rate when it comes to managing clients who struggle in other facilities. We focus largely on combining cultural practices to contemporary mainstream psychological practices. We currently run a program, called the warrior program, that looks at taking young men who have a history of alcohol and domestic violence, incorporating what would be considered a 'mindfulness' program if we use contemporary treatment language. What we are doing is taking young men and drawing on cultural experiences around tracking and hunting, and we use that as an anger-management program.
The fortunate thing we have at Gindaja is that we are located in the heartland of Gindaja land. We are surrounded by rainforest, beaches, streams and an abundance of wild animals. So we are very fortunate to be able to incorporate that into our treatment approach. I presented a paper last year at NIDAC on traditional hunting and using that as a treatment approach. Put simply, it is a mindfulness approach.
We also offer a drop-in centre. Within Yarrabah community itself we have a facility where we have counsellors who are basically the front line for any client who wants to access our service. Walk-in clients can walk in to the drop-in centre and either receive brief intervention or take the step to come in to rehab. A lot of our clients are referred from probation and parole and a significant and large number of our clients are male with domestic violence issues. That is kind of what our focus is on.
CHAIR: Would anyone else like to make an opening comment?
Mr Patterson : I will just elaborate on the best practices. Three to four years ago Gindaja successfully did a submission to the National Binge Drinking Strategy. Mr Rudd was in government at the time and we put in a submission for $250,000 and we were successful in that application. It was a two-year project and it was very successful. We had youths involved in all areas of the Beat da Binge program, including collating information, collecting data and feedback information as well. So the youths were very much involved. The target group was 18 to 25 years old. From that a few of the youths have gone on to successful careers. One is a Queensland Ambulance Service officer now. It has given them the motivation and the drive to continue on. It was very successful and we got positive feedback. We had the James Cook University involved to do research. I am not sure if I have a copy of that though.
CHAIR: That sounds encouraging, if you had graduates coming through. Can you give us a bit more information, Mr Patterson? What did that binge-drinking program consist of? Was it active training? Do you have the information?
Mr Patterson : I have this.
CHAIR: We will take copies of that and circulate them to everybody—Beat the Binge! Was it self referring? Did people put their hand up to do that, or were they sent along by corrections or a GP? How did they get to take part in the program?
Mr PERRETT: Technically, was everyone was there voluntarily? From what you said there were some who were involuntary?
Mrs Yeatman : Initially, it was a project where we wanted to identify some of the issues around binge drinking by young people within the community—such as—
CHAIR: Why do they do it?
Mrs Yeatman : Yes: why do they do it? We got the information from them and then we as an organisation can build on that and do our part within the community to combat all the issues around binge drinking. That is where that initially came from.
We made it so all the youths would be a part of it, and they run that initiative. They even went to Canberra and got an award for it—the two main leaders within the project. It has been a wonderful campaign for the organisation and it shows us, as an organisation, what we are doing and how we want to address those issues within our community. Targeting those young people is a way forward, I guess, because we all know that is where it starts sometimes, and we want to get the answers from them in some ways. It has been a good, successful program.
CHAIR: What did the young people say about their binge drinking? Why did they binge drink? Why girls as much as boys?
Mrs Yeatman : A lot of the information coming out was that it was boredom with the community, unemployment, and housing issues. A lot of young people are crammed together 10 per house or something. There are some issues around that. Not only that, they do not have a social outlet to go to. They have to travel into Cairns should they want to go to a nightclub, not that we encourage it. To have a social life they have to do it in their own home, which creates more family and social issues. Those were some of the answers that were coming back from the young people.
Dr White : One of the big things I mainly work on is young men, and the reasons why they consume alcohol. There is so much tied up in Indigenous communities around male self-identity and alcohol consumption. A big part of the program I run is around instilling that warrior ethos in young men. A warrior is a man and a warrior has certain values. It is that whole Yolnguian archetype around the protector/provider. That is the stuff we work on.
It is very simple for me to run a program like that, because one of the things I say to the young men is 'I have something you do not have. I am a man, and I know you want it. You want that label.' It is difficult to ascribe that label in an Aboriginal community from an overt sense. So in Cairns I define my man-ness as having a car licence, having a job, having a 21st birthday, and all those milestones that we do not see as initiations or rights of passage, but they are.
In Yarrabah it is not uncommon for young men to get in a car at 16 and drive. It is not uncommon for young men at 15 or 16 to consume large amounts of alcohol. Men are seen to drink alcohol. If you are drinking alcohol you are seen to be a man. A lot of that ties up with domestic violence, where your relationship with your significant other defines your status as an adult, but, when you have alcohol and immaturity and poor decision making tied into that, that is when we see that pattern of domestic violence. Over the years I have found that the more a young man has a clear perspective on his self-identity as a man, you start to see reductions in alcohol and domestic violence.
I work with some young men who, if you ask them what they do—and it is a very typical mainstream attitude—they will say that they are a hunter. That is their way of self-defining. The program I have looks at instilling that sense of self, that identity. But there are lots of young fellows in the community who cannot answer that question. What is it that you do? What is it that you want to do? It is reasonable in a community for a young person to only ever want to stay in the community. It is reasonable to be able to answer that question and not know what you want to do or have an ambition—let's just worry about today. They are the sorts of issues I work with. I think those are the issues—a lack of self identity and how I define myself as a man. Alcohol is something that defines you as a man. I have a can of beer in my hand and therefore I am a man. I would not do this if I were a kid. I am a man. Smoking is the same. So much of that is tied in with drinking—so much in relation to the sociology of drinking. Communities are very visual, and if I am seen to be drinking alcohol I must be a man.
Mr SNOWDON: Is that true for crack and dope?
Dr White : Methamphetamines are starting to creep into the community. Cannabis is widely accepted. There is some fear around harder drugs, and fear is the protecting factor around drugs in communities. There is this huge fear about needles. But what we are finding now is that there is less fear around harder drugs that can be smoked. I personally do not tend to find cannabis associated with man-ness. Alcohol is, but not so much cannabis. I guess this is because cannabis is more of a covert thing. Alcohol is very overt. Even though we are in an AMP community, where alcohol is criminalised, you can go there any day of the week to someone's home and you will see them overtly drinking, particularly young boys who want to be men. It is even more important for them to be seen with an alcohol can in their hand, even though it is criminalised. I will see that young men who are struggling with their self-identity as a man will be more likely to be in public with a can in their hand, because that is telling the community they are a man.
The positive side is that if an alternative is provided to the can of beer a young fellow will take it. Football is a huge thing in the community. I am one of the trainers for the Sea Hawks and have been for a few years now. I ran an anger management program two years ago and I am running it again within the footy club. In the 13 weeks I ran that program within the football club, again it was that warrior ethos—we are not football players, we are warriors. During that period there was not one incidence of domestic violence or alcohol related crime committed by the footballers. We created self-identity around what it meant to be a football player. If you are in the A-grade squad you are a man. We do not have boys in the A-grade squad, we only have men. In order to be a man you must fit what it means to be a man. We found that to be incredibly successful. That was three years ago that we ran to program at the football club, and that is what led to the warrior program. Bishop Malcolm said that he wanted the program run with guys who are not footballers and will never be A-grade footballers, so that young people can share in that same philosophy. That is how the program came about. But, yes, alcohol is tied—
CHAIR: What are the substitutes for the person who was a football player?
Dr White : Instead of alcohol?
Dr White : Wearing the jersey. Absolutely.
CHAIR: I thought you were saying there was something else beyond football that was then tried.
Dr White : Membership of the football club. Our football club members do not drink and do not abuse women. That is where we really pushed that.
Mr Patterson : It was a form of initiation.
CHAIR: I get that. But what I do not get is how come as many women are now drinking? What do women think when they drink—that they are a grown-up, adult woman?
Dr White : I cannot really speak about women, because it is not my area of expertise.
CHAIR: Perhaps the ladies can comment on that. I can understand the men saying, 'I am a man. I have the can in my hand and I can handle it, so I am known as a man.' But one of the trends right across Australia, not just in Indigenous communities, is women and girls drinking as hard and as fast as men and boys. What do you think is going on with women and girls? Because, of course, if women drink when they are pregnant then we have the disaster of FASD kids.
Mrs Yeatman : I have been working at Gindaja for a number of years. Every since I have been there a majority of the clients have been men. I used to wonder where all the women were—if they had issues and if they were afraid to deal with them. A lot of the women clients we work with raise and identify issues around stresses that drive them to want to have a drink, and parenting issues. A lot of our female clients often have child safety issues—not being able to have support around reunification, working with child safety and addressing some of those issues. A lot of them have medical issues that they were afraid to go to the local AMS for to address some of those issues.
CHAIR: So for them it is not identity. It is more that they are almost drowning their sorrows, you are suggesting.
Mrs Yeatman : Yes. I would not say they were drowning their sorrows. I think it is just a lack of understanding how to deal with stresses in their lives. One of the programs that we run is on leadership and family wellbeing, which looks at the individual and how they can grow and become better individuals so that they can manage their families in a way that brings healing back, I guess.
It is also just giving them some healing in terms of relaxation, because they have a lot of things going through their minds. So we encourage them to validate what they have just been through and focus on what that are going to do once they leave the rehab. So it is giving them some goals and some little plans in place.
CHAIR: Do you want to comment on that, Ms Thomas? Why do you think women are drinking to excess, endangering their unborn sometimes, being violent, or neglecting their families because they have been drinking or taking too many other drugs to be able to stay in focus?
Ms Thomas : I suppose it is the awareness that needs to be catered out to our mob out there—our ladies. There is a lot of peer pressure too, involved around that.
CHAIR: From the men, as well?
Ms Thomas : I suppose, for me at Gindaja, I want to facilitate the family wellbeing program. It is a 12-week program based on them as an individual, a community member and a family member within that unit of their home. It is about how to fit into society as well. It is about empowering them to take up initiatives around their own wellbeing, and looking at their strengths and identifying their strengths and looking at better ways of dealing with issues that are keeping them in that cycle that that are going through.
In our community I see women as our leaders. We are leaders. We are trying to encourage most of our men to take up that leadership role again within their families. I think the women are rising up and the men are just sort of sitting back. That is why the warrior program is all around, trying to build their self esteem so that they can take up that leadership as a father, as an individual and as a brother.
Dr White : I would like to take up a comment there about coping, alcohol use and young women. In Yarrabah at the moment there are 300 houses. It is a population of somewhere between 3,500 and 5,000 people. Do the maths: you are looking at in excess of 10 or 15 people in a two- or three-bedroom house. There is significant overcrowding. Lounge rooms are covered with mattresses; in hallways there are mattresses. In Yarrabah you have 15 people living in a house. That is 15 birthdays—15 opportunities to have a celebration. When one of those 15 people decides to have a drink and put the stereo on everyone in the house is now celebrating. We had a meeting in Yarrabah three weeks ago about public noise and the issue that came out of that meeting was that, when some person turned a stereo on, half the community then had to listen to the stereo because the population is so dense. How people are coping with that is: 'If you can't beat them, join them.' So, if the next-door neighbour is going to put his stereo on for three nights running, they may as well join the party as well. What we find is that young mothers who start mothering at an early age—or any mothers—experience stress. Any mother will be experiencing stress who is living in a home with 15 people with celebrations, parties and noise going on and all the issues around that, and then witnessing domestic violence when it does occur. What we find is mothers getting very stressed in that environment. Children who have grown up in families where there has been domestic violence grow up traumatised. People who are traumatised may use alcohol to cope.
There is lots of talk around transgenerational trauma. I have certainly found that. In a community that not so many years ago was run as an institution—people lived in dormitories; then the seventies and eighties came along and that institution was closed down—people had to learn to live this whole new different lifestyle, this whole different way of living.
Mr PERRETT: Unregulated.
Dr White : Absolutely, and they had to pick things up. There were issues going back a hundred years with families being removed; I still see that stuff playing out now, where patterns of coping skills were poorly developed back then and that has continued and continued. There is almost this acceptance that this is the way it is: 'I can't change it.'
CHAIR: It is sort of normalised.
Dr White : Yes, it is normalised. When I hear people talking about transgenerational trauma, the way I see it is: 'I just accept it. This is my lot and I just need to get on with it, and hey, I might have a drink from time to time but it helps me get through.'
The issues are overcrowding and noise and, as Thelma and Lyndel said, certainly alcohol is used among young women for coping. Correct me if I am wrong, but what I do see is that, as women age in the community, alcohol becomes less of an important factor. Would you agree with that—that you do not see the older ladies drinking in the community? We had a really big celebration in the community about three or four weeks ago and we had all the elders first. They sat at a table until about nine o'clock at night and no-one drank. I said to someone, 'Why isn't anyone drinking?' and they said, 'Because the elders are still here.' So there is this big respect for elders and that is a really positive thing in the community. There is this expectation that elders will not drink, so as you get older—
Mr SNOWDON: You want to go home early.
Dr White : Yes. I think people were trying to encourage them to leave.
Mr PERRETT: It is just like Canberra, really, isn't it, Warren?
Mr Patterson : My view on the women's issue is that they have perceived lifelong, through the generations, that it was men's business only. That is why the women tended to take a back seat. But some women, covertly, were drinking. Tim also stated: 'If you can't beat them, you join them.' That was the perception.
Dr White : I suppose if we could look at positives, the issue of daily drinking is not a big issue in the community we live and work in. Binge drinking is certainly our biggest concern.
CHAIR: Because you are officially a restricted alcohol community.
Dr White : Yes. You are limited to light beer. You can bring in a carton of XXXX, or light beer equivalent, and a bottle of wine. You cannot bring a cask of wine in; you can bring a bottle of wine in, per car. One car can bring a carton and/or a bottle of wine, altogether.
What I find—and we had this discussion before and have talked about it in the past—is that alcohol, having been criminalised, becomes something that is used covertly. One of the problems, obviously, with domestic violence is that a family is more at risk when there is no-one around, when people cannot see what is going on behind closed doors. We are in a community where alcohol is criminalised, so people do it behind closed doors. People get drunk behind closed doors. We do not have any place in the community where you can go and have a social drink, sit down and have a meal, play some darts and have a quiet conversation around a couple of beers. You cannot do that in Yarrabah. The only place you can drink alcohol is hiding behind drawn curtains in your house, and obviously that then leads to the bigger issue where, if my behaviour starts to become unruly and I start to become problematic, no-one can see that. It is happening behind closed doors. We only become aware of the drinking in the house when someone is injured, someone is hurt or someone comes out on the street seeking help. Then that person is charged with domestic violence. So I think the alcohol management plan, in a way, contributes to domestic violence by making alcohol a criminal behaviour, and making people hide when they drink.
CHAIR: Even though it is lawful to have a slab or one bottle?
Dr White : That is right.
CHAIR: That is not drunk out in the shade of the coolabah tree?
Dr White : People will drink light beer out in public, but if someone is opting to drink Jack Daniels or something, or a VB, then that would be done behind closed doors.
Mr PERRETT: The problem drinking is hidden.
Dr White : Correct: the problem drinking is done behind closed doors.
Mr SNOWDON: Does your residential facility have 22 beds?
Dr White : 22 beds. That is correct.
Mr SNOWDON: What proportion are self-referral?
Dr White : We would say that everyone is self-referred. Everyone has the choice to walk out the door. We are not a guarded facility, and everyone knows that it is their choice to be there. Having said that, there are people who are managed by probation and parole, and a part of their bail conditions is to be with us. I think we have six beds that we earmark—
Mr Patterson : Five.
Dr White : Five.
Mr Patterson : There are five beds available where Gindaja is a stakeholder in the Court Diversion Program. It was formerly the QIADP, the Queensland Indigenous Alcohol Diversion Program, and then it was called the Murri Court, but it has since changed names to Indigenous Sentencing List.
Mr SNOWDON: That is in Yarrabah?
Dr White : That is correct.
Mr SNOWDON: What proportion of those beds go to people from outside Yarrabah?
Dr White : It all depends on the season, really; it all depends on what is going on at a particular time. We would probably sit at about, I would say, 70 per cent from outside. We have had Indigenous and non-Indigenous clients. We have had Torres Strait Islander clients. We will generally take, as a priority, people from Yarrabah, and then we will take referrals through the court and we will take referrals through probation, parole or a health service. We get quite a few from the hospital here.
Mr SNOWDON: Are there other similar services in the Cairns region?
Dr White : There is a rehab that operates in Mareeba, and they operate on a—what is that model?
Mrs Yeatman : Therapeutic.
Dr White : A therapeutic community model. They also cater to all people around the cape. But we definitely do target those persons that are really at the end of their physical and mental wellbeing. For three months, for us, we focus on the physical needs initially, then on their mental health needs and then on their welfare needs, in preparation for them to return back.
Mr SNOWDON: A difficult question, which I have tried to confront over a number of years now, is: what is best practice in alcohol and drug rehabilitation? A psychologist—who worked with an Aboriginal service—told me once that he thought residential programs were of questionable value, because they provide short-term relief and then, invariably, the client ends up being back doing what they were doing. I have no issue with that—even if it is short-term relief, it is three months when you are not drinking.
Dr White : I did an audit on a camp population, on a Cairns camp population, 15 years ago. I was fortunate enough to come across a document that could name every individual who lived in the Chinamans Creek camp 15 years ago. I then inquired about their location, where they are, and what happened to those people. What I found, and this is obviously a very small example, was that only two were alive after this 15-year period.
CHAIR: And what age would they be roughly? Are you talking about 30s?
Dr White : They would have ranged, back then, from early 20s to early 40s.
Mr COULTON: How many people are we talking about?
Dr White : Fifteen. In the Chinamans Creek camp there is generally about 15 people who live in this particular camp. I found the document—
Mr SNOWDON: It is the town camp?
Dr White : It is a town camp, one of the town camps. This is to answer your question about what benefits do residential facilities provide. The two people who were alive, I tracked them down. I wanted to know what they had been doing for the last 15 years. What they had both done, every year they had been to rehab. They would check themselves in once year into rehab—
Mr SNOWDON: And dry out.
Dr White : and dry out; exactly. It coincided with the wet season, ironically. Obviously the camp is a horrible place during the wet season with mud everywhere and mosquitos, and so this couple—these two; they were not related—had opted once a year to go to rehab. When they went to rehab, they would put weight on; they would have a period of three months when they were not intoxicated and their physical and mental wellbeing would recover. They would then leave and get straight back into it again. They would absolutely physically and mentally destroy themselves, and then these people would turn up at a residential facility again and away they would go. These two people are alive; the other 12 people who continued at the camp and never went to rehab have long since passed. So does residential rehab have a benefit? To the two people who are alive it does.
Mr SNOWDON: I am sure that is true; I am just trying to develop an idea of what is best practice. How do you actually address—I mean long-term rehabilitation requires a lot more than three months in a residential facility, that is my point.
Dr White : Sure.
Mr SNOWDON: So what do we need to put in place to secure people? How do we get 50 per cent of the people you see off the grog permanently?
Dr White : Yes, that is right. Like you said, long term. The people we see started drinking alcohol from a very, very early age. Some of them have an alcohol career of 30 years. We then sign these people into rehab. We cannot fix a 30-year problem or 30 years of learning in three months. If you look at best practice—
Mr SNOWDON: If you know what it is.
Dr White : Yes; exactly. We expect our clients to fail, and that failure is an opportunity to learn. The old alcohol treatment model is that a failure was seen to be a terrible thing. We see our clients come back for our rehab, and that is an opportunity to restart and then continue on this learning process.
Mr SNOWDON: So recidivism is not a bad thing if they are turning up?
Dr White : Yes; exactly. What we also find—it is a difficult thing to measure what is success. I have a number of clients I am dealing with, incredibly violent clients, and the majority of them are men who have a history of violence. What we have seen during this program, and the magistrate in Yarrabah pointed it out, is a bit of a shift from domestic violence to property violence. That is a milestone. As far as we are concerned, that is a milestone. A measure of your discontent with your relationship is to punch a window—a house window or a car window. Prior to this program, it was punching your partner. So your measures of success have got to be—
Mr SNOWDON: Realistic.
Dr White : Exactly. We celebrate wilful damage, do you know what I mean?
CHAIR: So are you saying that is part of the identity change, that it is manly to not beat your partner?
Dr White : Absolutely.
CHAIR: So you have instilled that sufficiently, do you think? You have instilled that if they have problems and they need to express their anger, they should not do it by hurting another human being?
Dr White : Absolutely.
Mr SNOWDON: I have a question relating to your footy.
Dr White : The mighty Yarrabah Seahawks will win 2015!
Mr Patterson : I am the president.
Mr SNOWDON: You are the president? Do you remember the mob at Normanton ran a program—what was it called?
Mr Patterson : Was it around domestic violence?
Mr SNOWDON: Yes: if you are involved in domestic violence, you will not be playing football with us.
Mr Patterson : Yes, it was something like that.
Mr PERRETT: We had that evidence, didn't we, Sharman and Shayne?
Mr SNOWDON: It worked very well. What is happening down below you—in the schools, for example—to give males and indeed females, young people, the signal that it is no good to be doing this stuff and, if you want to participate in our community activities, you do not drink?
Mr Patterson : It has now become an annual event. Domestic Violence Awareness Day is a game day. We are affiliated with the Cairns District Rugby League, and a club comes from Cairns. I think Domestic Violence Awareness Month is May. A day in May is put aside for Domestic Violence Awareness Day. Curtis Pitt is always a regular at our games. That is when we get the boys to wear alternative jerseys, the pink and purple jerseys.
Mr SNOWDON: Last weekend we had the rugby league carnival, the Murri carnival. It is anti-smoking and anti-grog, and they have to be at school and have a health check to participate. Are there any programs like that operating locally, where, if you want to participate in any activity, you have to have a health check and you cannot be involved in any bad behaviour—drinking et cetera?
Dr White : The football club in Yarrabah has a code of conduct. We do not allow alcohol—
Mr SNOWDON: I know that, but I am thinking about the younger people in particular.
Mrs Yeatman : On behalf of the junior league team, we run a little project. Kids have to go to school every day to get a game and be part of the team. That is one initiative that we do. When you are talking about education, it comes back to parenting. As parents we are obligated to teach our kids all the skills that need to be known to survive out there in the social world. For domestic violence, we need to play our part by being good leaders within the family and in the community. From our organisation's point of view, we try and do a lot of that educational stuff around parenting values. We try to go into the schools, but, because of their curriculum and policy, we can only do promotional stuff. We do our best to promote and get the message out around all our community events.
Dr White : One of the really big pluses in Yarrabah in particular is how strong role-modelling is, both negatively and positively. We are talking football here. Our training method in football and in the warrior program is very much lead by example. You cannot dictate to people in a community if you are not following that code yourself. The problem is that the community can be very judgemental to people who have had a chequered history and then turn over a leaf and become good citizens. I hear all the time in the community, 'Don't dictate to me. I remember you 27 years ago when you got drunk.' The community can be really judgemental.
There are some massive role models in the community that young people look up to. You as the role model then have the responsibility to carry that really positive message. At footie training a couple of years ago I asked about domestic violence, and a guy asked me if I had ever hit a woman. I said 'No way. A coward hits a woman.' There needs to be more of that kind of talk in the community.
Mr SNOWDON: You talked about the IDP program earlier. You have kids going into that program. Is that seen as something positive by the community?
Dr White : Sorry, which program is that?
Mr SNOWDON: The Defence Indigenous Development Program.
Dr White : Absolutely positive. It is huge. What you find up this way—from Yarrabah up to Cape York—is a huge admiration for those who have served in the communities. Again that ties into that warrior ethos—a soldier is a warrior. Certainly, up in the Torres Strait there is a real honour, as you would know, with NORFORCE.
CHAIR: And with the veterans and so on.
Dr White : We have just opened up an RSL in Yarrabah. It is the first Aboriginal community RSL in Australia. The state president of the RSL last week approved some funding for us to set up a little coffee shop. Yarrabah does not have a coffee shop, but it will [inaudible]. One of the things that we, as a welfare organisation, want to focus on is how we, as an RSL—I am ex-serviceman myself—can use our experience to role model to young people. One of the basic things is when a young person from the community goes and joins the Defence Force. We need to be jumping on those people and telling the story in the community about how positive that is.
One of the reasons why that does not get shared in the community, and this is a discussion that we have had in the RSL is [inaudible] over the hill from Yarrabah and that is another world. There are people—and, particularly older people—in the community who just do not want to leave the community. They are happy to stay there. So what happens outside is that if you leave the community you are on your own. It is completely another world, and I know Sheedy in AFL found out that that was a problem with recruiting. Once someone left the community there was lack of support from the community because people just want to stay in the community.
As an RSL, one of the things that we want to focus on when a young person joins the military is that we want to pay for family to go down to the march out. They can then come back and tell the story to the community about how positive that experience was for the family. Typically, what we find with Defence personnel in the communities is that their families do not go to the march out because they cannot afford it or it is too frightening or they cannot navigate the transit system or the airport system. I went to Parramatta last year and did not know how to get on a train. I consider myself a reasonably educated person and I did not know how to get on the Sydney transit system.
Mr PERRETT: We can pass that on to the member for Parramatta.
Mr SNOWDON: You must have your PhD in the wrong discipline.
Dr White : Yes. It certainly was not in the New South Wales transit system. There I was, intimidated by the city, and I could only imagine what it was like for someone who has only ever lived in Yarrabah. There are lots of little things in the community that are positive, that are looking at that role model and looking at what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman. I think over the last 10 years, Yarrabah and, certainly, Cape York have come a long way in addressing those issues.
Regarding the issue with the AMP, I think, at the time it needed to be brought in, but it is now time for the AMP to not be there. The problem with the AMP at the moment is that it promotes unrealistic alcohol consumption socialisation, if that even makes any sense. It creates this criminality around drinking, this covert manner in which alcohol is consumed, and it really [inaudible] because if the police come knocking on the door and I am in possession of it I am committing an offence. So when I get alcohol I need to drink it quickly. The AMP very much fosters DV and fosters binge drinking. Having said that, I think at the time when it was brought in it was necessary.
CHAIR: We have got two more speakers.
Mr PERRETT: I will discuss this matter of signs and symbols later. In my community there is an alcohol management plan, but it is just a bit more invisible and not as tangible. I guess you are saying Yarrabah is ready for the invisible alcohol management plan rather than the symbolic imposition. It would still be the community enforcing regulations but it would be done through those invisible things that every functioning community does.
Dr White : Yes.
CHAIR: We thank each of you very much.
Dr White : I am sorry for talking too much.
CHAIR: No, we could go on for days. But, sadly, we have not got days at the minute. We really do thank you. We wish you well at your rehab centre. You have given us a lot of very good ideas. The sports connection has been raised before. Rumbalara footie and netball team in my part of the world does very interesting things, including win every season's matches.
Dr White : Awesome.
Mr NEUMANN: They won the Murri Carnival a couple of years ago up in Ipswich, didn't they?
Mr Patterson : They have been runners up twice.
Mr SNOWDON: When you played Yuendumu in the footie carnival, if they were not in front at three-quarter time the game does not finish till they were in front.
Dr White : We will have to adopt that policy.
CHAIR: I do thank you. As we have said to the other participants, you will get a draft transcript which you will need to check for any errors of transcription. If there is anything else you think we should get that is going to help us understand your situation or best practice you have observed somewhere else, please feel free to send it through to the secretariat. We really thank you most sincerely for giving us fresh insights into this very vexed problem. Thank you very much.