Q: What is an Alcohol Management Plan?
A: An Alcohol Management Plan is an agreement across the community to tackle the harm caused by alcohol abuse in a way that works for the community. It must have a strong focus on reducing alcohol-related harm and improving community safety, particularly for women and children.
The Plan is developed in partnership with the community and with support from local organisations and government staff. It must be agreed by the community and government. They are about strategies, services and initiatives which reduce alcohol related harm.
Alcohol Management Plans are not about reducing or lifting alcohol restrictions in Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory.
Q: How do Alcohol Management Plans benefit communities?
A: Having an Alcohol Management Plan is a way for the community to talk about the harm that too much alcohol can cause people, especially women and children. It will help the community work together to find ways to reduce the amount of alcohol consumed, help problem drinkers to change their behaviour and minimise the harm caused by alcohol abuse in the community.
Even if a community is dry, an Alcohol Management Plan can help to identify support needs for vulnerable women and children and people with alcohol problems. This might include activities such as rehabilitation services for people returning to their community to stop drinking, or education about the harm that drinking has on young people’s health.
Q: How will communities be supported to develop Alcohol Management Plans?
A: Community members will be supported to develop Plans by trained government workers who will also utilise the expertise of local service providers and health and education professionals in identifying services and programs to support Plans.
Q. What are minimum standards?
A. Minimum standards will help communities develop Alcohol Management Plans that are effective in addressing alcohol-related harm, keep the community safe and help to protect vulnerable people in the community, particularly women, children and families. The standards will be accompanied by a set of guidelines and tools, such as checklists and templates, to use when developing a Plan to make sure it covers things like:
- who is involved in developing and managing the Plan;
- how the Plan will address alcohol-related issues in the community;
- roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders;
- how the Plan will be reviewed; and
- what geographic area is covered by the Plan.
Q: How have the proposed minimum standards been developed?
A. The draft minimum standards have been developed based on initial discussions between the Commonwealth Government, Northern Territory Government and other key stakeholders. The standards reflect supply, demand and harm reduction strategies.
Q: How long will it be before minimum standards are finalised?
A: Minimum standards for Alcohol Management Plans are expected to be in place by March 2013.
Before they are finalised we wanted to hear the views of people that live in communities in the Northern Territory and a range of stakeholders about what is in them.
Throughout November and December 2012, government staff met with community leaders, women’s groups, alcohol reference groups and others in approximately 95 remote Northern Territory Aboriginal communities and town camps. Key stakeholder meetings were also held in the regional centres of Alice Springs, Tennant Creek, Nhulunbuy, Darwin and Katherine. These sessions were well attended by service providers and other stakeholders eager to provide feedback on the draft minimum standards. Formal feedback from community, regional and national stakeholders was also received. Consultations on draft minimum standards for Alcohol Management Plans were concluded in December 2012. The Government is current reviewing the feedback and once finalised the standards will go to Parliament for approval. When finalising minimum standards, the Government will consider expert advice and research that identifies approaches to reducing alcohol-related harm, supply and demand and safe drinking levels.
The minimum standards will also be made available on: our FaHCSIA website at www.fahcsia.gov.au/strongerfutures/tacklingalcoholabuse
Q: Where a community has already begun developing an Alcohol Management Plan, will they need to change it to make sure it meets the minimum standards?
A: Where a community has already begun developing a Plan, they will be assisted by the Australian Government and the Northern Territory Government to make sure their Plan addresses the minimum standards.
If the Plan needs to be worked on to meet minimum standards, local organisations and government workers will work with the community to support them in strengthening strategies and filling in the gaps.
Q. Do all communities in the Northern Territory have to have an Alcohol Management Plan?
A: Alcohol Management Plans are not compulsory. Each community can choose whether they want to develop an Alcohol Management Plan.
Q. How is an Alcohol Management Plan approved?
A. After a community develops an Alcohol Management Plan, it will be sent to the Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs for approval. The Minister will check whether the Plan meets the minimum standards – this is to make sure that the Plan will work to reduce alcohol-related harm and keep the community safe, particularly vulnerable women and children.
If the Minister believes the Alcohol Management Plan does not meet the minimum standards, the Minister may not approve it. If a Plan is not approved, the Minister will advise the community in writing and will describe what needs to be considered or done before it can be approved. Local organisations and government staff will continue to be available to work with the community to make changes to the Plan that address these concerns.
Q. How will communities and government make sure Plans are working?
A. In every Plan there will be objectives that are set by the community and agreed by the Government so the plan can be reviewed on a regular basis to check that it is working. This is a key part of the draft minimum standards.
The draft minimum standards require that every Plan will have a monitoring and evaluation process, so the community can assess the effectiveness of strategies and activities they have put into place.
Q. Will an Alcohol Management Plan reduce or lift the alcohol restrictions in the community?
A: Alcohol Management Plans are not about reducing or lifting alcohol restrictions in Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory.
Communities can ask to make changes to alcohol restrictions, however before any changes to restrictions would be agreed, a community will need to:
- show that an Alcohol Management Plan is in place and that it clearly meets the minimum standards
- show that there is a reduction in alcohol-related harm which would not be reversed by lifting the restrictions, and
- ensure that vulnerable people, such as women and children, would not be put at risk.
These applications will be considered very carefully to make sure that the things that have been done to improve the lives and safety of women and children in remote communities are not lost.
There would need to be clear evidence that there has been a decrease in the harm caused by alcohol abuse in the community with data from relevant indicators such as child protection, family violence, police reports, health clinic reports and hospitalisation information. Areas such as school enrolment and attendance, access to rehabilitation services, employment and economic participation will also be considered.
The Australian Government’s primary aim for alcohol management is the protection of vulnerable women and children. That is why the Government has continued alcohol restrictions in the Northern Territory as part of the Stronger Futures package.
If these did not answer your questions, and you would like more information on the minimum standards email AMPMinimumStandardsConsult@dss.gov.au