This submission draws on the cultural authority of an Aboriginal board which governs North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) as an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation. NAAJA staff are inspired by the strength and resilience of the Aboriginal people who are board members and come from across the Northern Territory including a strong focus and representation from regional and remote areas.
NAAJA has contributed significantly to alcohol related policy including a detailed submission to the Riley review and to the Liquor Act Amendment Bill 2018. Consistent across our submissions is the overarching concerns of the apparent emphasis of the criminalisation of alcohol issues as distinct from a more robust health based response.
While NAAJA understand the development of a therapeutic response will require significant investment and a shift from the current practice, we see this as important if we are to comprehensively deal with alcohol related harm.
NAAJA is concerned at the apparent continued approach of criminalising alcohol issues and an expensive, current system leading to high rates of contact of Aboriginal people with the justice system.
A person subjected to a banning notice or exclusion order may have a range of health-related issues which may impact their ability to comply with an order. Because this person is unable to comply with their order as a result of their condition, then the policy and legislative framework should reflect a staged process where this person receives a relevant health assessment and clear direction and requirements based on their health-commissioned plan.
The courts and broader legal system are significantly under-resourced, and face increased numbers of legal matters, including where alcohol related harm is directly connected. There are limited services to assist, especially where a person has a cognitive impairment and it is not diagnosed or where it is diagnosed and there are a lack of services and supports. This is placing significant strain on the legal system, and is well documented.