Indigenous communities in Queensland (Australia) have been subject to Alcohol Management Plans since 2002/03, with significant penalties for breaching restrictions. ‘Sly grog’ and ‘homebrew’ provide access to alcohol despite restrictions. This paper describes how this alcohol is made available and the risks and impacts involved. In affected towns and communities across a large area of rural and remote Queensland, interviews and focus groups documented experiences and views of 255 long-standing community members and service providers. Using an inductive framework, transcribed interviews were analysed to identify supply mechanisms, community and service provider responses and impacts experienced.
‘Homebrew’ was reportedly manufactured in just a few localities, in locally-specific forms bringing locally-specific harms. However, ‘sly grog’ sourced from licensed premises located long distances from communities, is a widespread concern across the region. ‘Sly grog’ sellers circumvent retailers’ takeaway liquor license conditions, stockpile alcohol outside restricted areas, send hoax messages to divert enforcement and take extraordinary risks to avoid apprehension. Police face significant challenges to enforce restrictions. On-selling of ‘sly grog’ appears more common in remote communities with total prohibition. Despite different motives for involvement in an illicit trade ‘sly grog’ consumers and sellers receive similar penalties.
There is a need for: (a) a more sophisticated regional approach to managing takeaway alcohol sales from licensed suppliers, (b) targeted penalties for ‘sly grog’ sellers that reflect its significant community impact, (c) strategies to reduce the demand for alcohol and (d) research to assess the effects of these strategies in reducing harms.