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Monday, 27 February 2012
Page: 1791

Dr STONE (Murray) (16:04): In continuation, let me say that there are very important measures in the Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory Bill and in the Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory (Consequential and Transitional provisions) Bill. They deal in particular with the issue of alcohol related harm to Aborigines in communities in the Northern Territory. We all know that there are some very heavy drinkers in the Northern Territory, and not just Indigenous people. We also know there are a lot of Indigenous communities that are strictly dry; there is no alcohol allowed. Despite that great diversity, it is important that we try to have appropriate Commonwealth and Northern Territory alcohol licensing laws which are aimed at reducing alcohol related harm to Indigenous peoples.

There is a terrible consequence, for example, when pregnant women drink alcohol, whether they are Indigenous or not. We know that foetal alcohol spectrum disorder can be a consequence of women drinking when pregnant, and there are significant numbers of Indigenous children who are now at risk or who have in fact become victims of FASD. I want to commend communities such as the women of the Fitzroy Crossing area in Western Australia, who have tackled the issue of alcohol themselves and have, through local empowerment and local education, tackled the heavy drinking that was once of almost historic proportions in their community. Now they are tackling the issue of foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, and I commend that community.

I also need to stress that there needs to be cooperation and coordination between the Territory and Commonwealth laws in relation to all alcohol selling and allowing of consumption of alcohol. It is important that the current alcohol restrictions in Aboriginal communities are appropriate and that they are reviewed from time to time. Of course the main focus should be the strengthening of alcohol self-management plans to bring about local solutions, focused on harm minimisation, for Aboriginal communities. I mention again places like Fitzroy Crossing, in Western Australia, that are great role models for self empowerment for making real gains.

This legislation also includes land reform measures that enable:

… the Commonwealth to make amendments to Northern Territory legislation relating to community living areas and town camps to facilitate voluntary long term leasing, including for the granting of individual rights or interests and the promotion of economic development.

This is an issue which the coalition tackled quite some time ago. We know that communalism is a very important traditional way of life for Indigenous peoples, but it has disadvantages in the 21st century. Often a young couple or, indeed, a long-established family needs to have some capacity for long-term leasing of their homes. They need to have security of tenure and they need to be able to gain bank loans using assets that they might have in community settings. This is an important area of work. These measures will enable:

… opportunities for private home ownership in town camps and more flexible long term leasing including for business activity in community living areas.

We have to normalise life for Indigenous peoples who aspire to the same economic opportunities as others in this country.

Finally, these bills have food security measures which try to improve access to fresh, healthy food through remote community stores. I am shocked whenever I go to remote communities and see what is on the store shelves. Often there is only processed food that is usually well past its shelf life and is at exorbitant prices. I look around the communities and see young children suffering the consequences of poor nutrition, children who have not seen fresh fruit and vegetables in a very long time. Anything we can do to improve food security measures for these Indigenous communities we must pursue. So while we need to amend these bills to make them better I do support their overall thrust.