Conference paper
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When Melbourne’s two ‘dry zones’ had compulsory ballots for restaurant and café liquor licences removed in 2015, news accounts surmised that “a hangover from the anti-alcohol movement of the 1920s had finally been relegated to the history books”. Yet the dry zones are chapters in a longer, ongoing story. The 1920 poll that created these anachronistic alcohol-free pockets culminated half a century of campaigns in Australia and beyond for local alcohol controls, prohibitions and vetos including ‘local option’. This paper looks specifically at temperance era local-level politics, and its legacies for cities like Melbourne today. The paper uses archival records and historical GIS techniques to show the workings and debates of Victoria’s early local option policies, and their corollaries statutory limits and dry zones – some of which survive residually today. Mapping the rise and spatial impacts of local policies on hotel numbers it shows the temperance movement of the late 19th century using nascent planning laws to legitimise local popular political power, and the control not only of alcohol but of land use and disorder more broadly. Drawing on the idea of genealogies of planning (Booth 2005) the paper argues local option history has legacies for, and parallels with, questions facing cities and planning today. As some temperance-era controls are being wound back, essentially identical policies are being reasserted.

Publication Details
Source title:
Proceedings of the 14th Australasian Urban History Planning History Conference 2018


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