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Grog ban produces positive results -

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Grog ban produces positive results

Broadcast: 18/12/2007

Reporter: Hamish Fitzsimmons

Three 3 months ago The 7.30 Report revealed that the number of Aboriginal deaths in the Kimberley's
Fitzroy Crossing area was around 170 people in five years. At that time the community had
successfully sought a 6 month ban on all takeaway alcohol in the town stronger that 2.7 per cent.


ALI MOORE: The prominent child health specialist Professor Fiona Stanley has told an inquest into
alcohol related deaths in Western Australia's Kimberley region that excessive drinking is creating
another stolen generation.

Three months ago the 7:30 report revealed the number of Aboriginal deaths caused by alcohol in the
Fitzroy Crossing area was close to 170 people in the past five years.

The 7:30 Report has revisited the tiny community which has sought to stem the flow of alcohol by
banning full and midstrength takeaway sales for six months from its only pub. And tonight we can
also reveal a report commissioned by the Federal Government has made scathing claims about the
running of the Indigenous owned company which runs that pub.

Hamish Fitzsimmons reports.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: In most country towns the sight of children playing in the streets might not
seem out of the ordinary. But here in Fitzroy Crossing it's remarkable.

It was just three months ago that this tiny community was being torn apart by grog.

JOE ROSS, COMMUNITY LEADER: We just had over 170 deaths in the last five years, just about all of

them were alcohol related.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: Sick and tired of the drinking and violence, the local women's centre came up
with a solution, a six month suspension on full strength takeaway sales.

JUNE OSCAR, MARNINWARNTIKURA WOMEN'S RESOURCE CENTRE: We needed to get respite, we needed to
address the volume of alcohol that was available in this community.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: As a result of that ban, if someone wants to drink anything stronger than light
beer, they can go to the pub's main bar or the nearest bottle shop, a 600 km round trip. The

Resource Centre has noticed a big difference in people's behaviour in just three months.

JUNE OSCAR: Alcohol certainly exacerbated the level of violence and frequency of violence and
therefore women and children needing to seek refuge at the women's shelter. We've seen a steady
decline in the numbers.

MAUREEN CARTER, NINKILINGARRI HEALTH SERVICE: Before the ban we'd have children congregating around
the tourist bureau till quite late at night but since the ban there's, you know, you don't see kids
hanging around out there anymore. I guess they must feel safe to go home.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: The ban has been so successful other communities are using Fitzroy Crossing as
a role model.

GRANT AKESSON, WA DRUG AND ALCOHOL OFFICE: We're starting to see more communities start to go down
the line that Fitzroy's gone and making noise about well these are our problems, these are things
we want to do to address it.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: Despite the apparent success on the restriction on the sale of alcohol here at
Fitzroy Crossing, there are vocal opponents of it. Unsurprisingly the licencee of this hotel is one
of them.

He says the bans have actually failed because they don't address the real problems in the town.

PATRICK GREEN, HOTEL LICENSEE: I think it's easier to slap a ban on them than to deal with the real

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: Before the ban the Crossing Inn sold the bulk of takeaway alcohol in the town.

It's actually owned by Fitzroy Crossing's Indigenous community under the name Leedal. Its licensee,
Patrick Green says unemployment is more of a problem than grog.

PATRICK GREEN: Alcohol is one factor. If they've got things to do, maybe it's not a problem but at
this stage while they have free time on their hands, yes, alcohol is a problem.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: He also disputes claims there's less violence in the town since the ban.

PATRICK GREEN: The drop in violence is maybe because when we are reporting violence it doesn't go
any further other than other people are reporting the violence.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: Late today the 7:30 Report obtained a copy of a damning review of Leedal which
owns the inn. It looks at the partnership between Leedal and the Federal Government owned
Indigenous Business Australia which is aimed at providing business and employment opportunities to
Aboriginal communities.

measured in terms of community involvement in and ownership of the outcomes of development
projects, or improvements to the communities well-being then the Fitzroy project must be judged as
having failed the community it set out to benefit.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: It also asks where the profits went.

years of the Trust's existence, Leedal as Trustee has failed to distribute any of its profits to
the beneficiaries of the Trust. They have achieved nothing in the way of control over policies
relating to alcohol and employment.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: Tommy May is one of the Kimberley's senior traditional lawman and a respected
artist whose paintings hang in collections around the world. Three of his nine children have died
in drinking related incidents. Since the ban he's been painting more and not being pestered or
humbugged as it's called here, by drunks.

TOMMY MAY, COMMUNITY ELDER: Better life and better sleep, be strong and healthy. No humbug in every

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: One of the other affects of the ban has been a surge in interest in traditional
law. Elders like Harry Yungabun say there's been a reawakening of Aboriginal culture.

HARRY YUNGABUN, COMMUNITY ELDER: It's like strengthening our traditional law. Like in a way they
look at themselves before what they're doing. They weren't really much interested in our cultural
side because they didn't really have nothing much to do here in Fitzroy. It's mostly drinking.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: For many of Fitzroy Crossing's older people, the alcohol restrictions are a
return to time when people drank less and social ties were strong.

TOMMY MAY: We live better now, better life now. For a couple of months or three months now you can
see everybody sober.

HARRY YUNGABUN: Since this thing stopped and people started to realise what in fact the grog has
done to them and then you see good result coming back from the people.

ALI MOORE: Hamish Fitzsimmons reporting.