Indigenous communities have called for an effective inquiry to be launched into alcohol abuse in their midst.
The communities want community consultation to be included in the new federal government inquiry into alcohol consumption in Indigenous communities.
The new parliamentary inquiry which was originally intended to delve into the issue of alcohol related violence across the country, has now been adjusted to deal with Indigenous communities in particular.
Health groups in Indigenous communities are hoping that the inquiry will help the government develop better strategies for dealing with alcohol abuse. They are also hoping that Indigenous communities are included as part of the process.
According to an article by Michael Kenny on Sbs.com.au, the inquiry is to be conducted by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs which is to be chaired by Liberal MP Sharman Stone. The inquiry will examine patterns of supply and demand for alcohol in these communities and the problem of alcohol fuelled violence also prevalent among Indigenous communities – as well as non-Indigenous communities across the country.
The inquiry is also expected to examine how alcohol consumption impacts babies both unborn and newborn. Strategies of other countries in dealing with alcohol abuse will also be examined.
The Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister, explained that the point of the inquiry was not to victimise Indigenous Australians, he went on to explain:
“This is about poverty, not ethnicity. But I acknowledge that there have always been and we have never really seen a break, particularly in reports of domestic violence, defence injuries, alcohol, deaths through alcohol…. through cars….and violence.”
The inquiry will also apparently examine socio-economic backgrounds and how they are linked to alcohol abuse. Meanwhile the opposition labour party in the NT has criticised the inquiry saying it is an insult to Indigenous Australians.
Although the inquiry has received some criticism, some believed it could be a good way to begin tackling alcohol abuse.
The medical officer with the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, Dr John Boffa who has worked with Indigenous communities for over 2 decades says that the inquiry is “long overdue”. The article went on to explain:
“This is a useful inquiry. Alcohol problems are obviously very prevalent in Aboriginal communities. But I think if the inquiry is done well, it’s got the potential to provide some solutions that will address alcohol misuse, not just amidst Aboriginal people but amongst the broader population as well.
Even the chairman of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, Justin Mohamed said that the inquiry would be a valuable opportunity to examine what policy approaches are working and those that are not when it comes to alcohol abuse among Indigenous Australians.
The article goes on to quote Mr Mohamed as saying:
“You need to look at the community. You need to engage the community in the initiatives and the things that can work have to be owned and obviously embraced and I think once you achieve that, the more successful things that I’ve seen, heard about and read about have been ones where there’s been some real leadership from within the community and from the leaders and organisations that are obviously providing services and looking after their community interests.”