Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT) is in support of the vast majority of changes to the Liquor Act encompassed in this Bill. AMSANT recognises this Bill is another key aspect of the evidence-based reform to alcohol policy by the NT Government that is already leading to substantial reductions in alcohol related harm. While it is still early days, it is encouraging to see a measurable reduction in harms since the introduction of these vital reforms. In particular, AMSANT notes the recorded 44% reduction in alcohol-related assaults in Alice Springs (Crime Statistics monthly reports for Sept-Dec 2018, compared to same period in 2017) and a 24% reduction in alcohol related ED presentation in all NT hospitals (Dec 2018 compared to Dec 2017). That said, AMSANT has outlined in this submission a number of recommendations that can further strengthen the legislation currently before the Committee. Some of these recommendations relate to direct changes to the content and wording of the Bill, while others are recommendations for broader structural reform that we believe would support effective implementation of the Bill.
- AMSANT is concerned about the potential for some provisions in this Bill to allow for overzealous policing of drinking in public spaces which could increase contact between people with alcohol problems and the justice system or those suspected of drinking, in a way which is discriminatory, disempowering and gives rise to further marginalisation.
- Effective compassionate policing can support those with alcohol problems to access health and other social services, but unfortunately, policing often results in a cycle of arrest and short term detention which can worsen the despair that is driving alcohol use.
- AMSANT recommends that all police receive training on the effects of acute and chronic alcohol misuse including acquired brain injury, as well asidentifying potential non-alcohol related medical conditions.
- As it stands there is little scope for recourse against discrimination for disempowered and disadvantaged members of the community. The Anti-Discrimination Commission is currently underresourced and under-staffed such that they are unable to adequately exercise important functions, such as own motion investigations.
- AMSANT also recommends that the community impact assessment guidelines require an application for a liquor license to include information about risk to the community.