Blunting the legacy of alcohol abuse in Western Australia
Fitzroy Crossing, an isolated town with approximately 2500 residents in Australia's remote northwest, was typical of such communities, with a large Indigenous population (around 60%), high rates of harmful alcohol use, and depressingly high rates of alcohol-related violence and crime.
A tipping point came in 2007 when there were 55 deaths in the community, 13 being suicides. Alcohol was a factor in most deaths. After much consultation, community elders took what at the time was unthinkable action: proposing that all stores selling take-away alcohol be restricted only to low-strength beverages, with a maximum of 2·5% alcohol by volume. Take-away sales of stronger beers or ciders, wine, and spirits were prohibited, meaning these could only be bought in the bar of the town's two licensed premises that were prohibitively expensive to many residents. The nearest town selling take-away high strength alcohol is 250 km away. Despite stern opposition and personal threats to those leading the reform, there was sufficient community support to implement a trial of the restrictions.