Tackling alcohol abuse

The Stronger Futures package responds to calls for alcohol restrictions to continue, stronger penalties for grog running and support for people with drug and alcohol problems. The Government wants Aboriginal communities to have a greater role in managing alcohol issues and will help them to develop local alcohol management plans, ensuring these plans have a clear focus on harm reduction and the protection of women, children and families.

Alcohol Management Plans

The Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory Act 2012 includes reforms that will strengthen community Alcohol Management Plans. These are plans, negotiated at a local community level, for the effective management of alcohol use among community members, and for the reduction of alcohol-related harm to individuals, families and the community.

Alcohol Management Plans are a way for the Government to work with communities to:

  • provide more support for vulnerable women and children and people with alcohol problems; and
  • develop strategies for reducing the supply, harm and demand for alcohol in communities.

Alcohol Management Plans are not about reducing or lifting alcohol restrictions in Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory, but about assisting Aboriginal communities to reduce the harm caused by alcohol.

Minimum standards

Alcohol Management Plans have been strengthened under the new Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory Act 2012 through the introduction of new minimum standards. All Alcohol Management Plans will need to meet the new minimum standards, which are aimed at further reducing the harm that results from alcohol abuse in Aboriginal communities, with a particular focus on the safety of community members, particularly women, children and families.

They are a legislative instrument under the Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory Act 2012. The Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister has the power to approve the Alcohol Management Plans, in part based on their assessment of whether the plans have addressed the new minimum standards as set out in the legislative instrument. These minimum standards will also form the framework for Alcohol Management Plans being developed by communities under Stronger Futures.

Standard 1: Consultation and engagement

  • An alcohol management plan must be developed in partnership and agreement between government and community representatives by way of a comprehensive and continued community consultation and engagement.
  • An alcohol management plan must be developed ensuring the views of vulnerable groups, community members and interest groups are heard, and recognise the need for targeted and diverse approaches particularly to ensure that women and children are heard.
     
  • An alcohol management plan must have been developed, where possible, with representation from:
    • women;
    • children;
    • men;
    • youth;
    • the elderly;
    • clan groups;
    • traditional owners; and
    • all residents including non-drinkers and drinkers.
  • An alcohol management plan must have been developed, where possible, with regard to the views and potential contributions of:
    • local government;
    • health and education authorities;
    • relevant law enforcement and criminal justice agencies;
    • alcohol and other drug services;
    • representatives from local liquor outlets and licensees; and
    • businesses.
  • An alcohol management plan must have been developed with the involvement, where possible, of local and regional organisations and service providers (particularly health services).

Standard 2: Managing the Alcohol Management Plan

  • An alcohol management plan must include governance arrangements that clearly describe the roles and responsibilities of each of the agencies and participants in the alcohol management plan, especially those involving the need for resources. An alcohol management plan must include a balance of Aboriginal community members and their interests. This may include:
  • the community participants indicated in Item 1(3) of Minimum standard 1;
  • participants who are not based in the community, including senior police, managers and policy makers at senior levels in other government agencies; and
  • non-government organisations which provide relevant services in the particular community.
  • An alcohol management plan must include, where relevant:
  • resources, roles and responsibilities of stakeholders including police and other government agencies, and their views and advice, to enable compliance with the alcohol management plan;
  • roles and responsibilities of local health clinics and regional service providers in helping to prevent and manage alcohol problems in the community;
  • responsibilities of= local liquor licensees with respect to the alcohol management plan; and
  • evidence that the stakeholders are aware of, and accept, the roles and responsibilities specified, and have allocated sufficient time, resources and personnel to perform their share of responsibilities in relation to implementation of the alcohol management plan.

Note: The development, implementation and management of an alcohol management plan are primarily the responsibility of the community; however, effective implementation requires shared responsibility with relevant agencies.

Standard 3: Alcohol Management Plan strategies – supply, demand and harm reduction

  • An alcohol management plan must identify community-based strategies to reduce harm to individuals, families and communities that results from alcohol abuse.  These may include one or more of the following types of strategies:
  • strategies for controlling alcohol supply;

Note: Strategies for controlling alcohol supply may include whole of community strategies to address grog running and home-made alcohol, restrictions on sale or supply from local liquor outlets including takeaway, restrictions on hours of sale for on-license drinking, restrictions on types and amounts of alcohol permitted to be sold to individuals and whole population for on-licence consumption within specific periods.

  • strategies for reducing demand for alcohol; or

Note: Strategies for reducing demand for alcohol may include resources and measures for intervention, detoxification, and treatment of dependent drinkers as well as early intervention strategies and proactive and preventative measures such as dry concerts, Blue Light discos, sport and other youth diversion activities, health promotion and education (for example, on Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and the effects of alcohol abuse on children).

  • strategies to reduce harm.

Note: Strategies to reduce harm may include community patrols, adequate responses to violence and unsafe driving, family support, women’s shelters, and more support for people with alcohol abuse issues (for example, support groups and sobering-up facilities, and improved access to regional services and facilities).

Standard 4: Monitoring, reporting and evaluation

  • An alcohol management plan must include measurable outcomes and benchmarks to inform evaluation.
  • An alcohol management plan must describe how the ongoing progress and effectiveness of the identified strategies will be monitored and reported to the government and community residents in a manner that is understandable to community residents indicated in Item 1(3) of Minimum standard 1. 
  • An alcohol management plan must outline a process for ongoing review and amendment of the alcohol management plan.
  • An alcohol management plan must include a mechanism to deal with complaints and disputes
    Note: Government has a key role in providing support for evaluation of alcohol management plans including assisting communities with benchmarks and access to data.

 

Standard 5: Clear geographical boundaries

  • An alcohol management plan must show clearly all relevant geographical boundaries.
     
  • An alcohol management plan must explain how and why the geographical boundaries have been chosen.

Consultations

The Department sought comment on draft minimum standards for Alcohol Management Plans from key national and Northern Territory stakeholders and conducted consultations through Government Engagement Coordinators and Indigenous Engagement Officers in Aboriginal communities and town camps across the Northern Territory. This included seeking feedback from community leaders, women’s groups and key community stakeholders such as police, health workers, safe house workers and community alcohol reference groups. Key stakeholders were also invited to consultation meetings held in the following Northern Territory regional centres in November 2012:

  • Alice Springs, 20 November 2012
  • Tennant Creek, 21 November 2012
  • Nhulunbuy, 23 November 2012
  • Darwin, 27 November 2012
  • Katherine, 29 November 2012

We received a lot of feedback, and this feedback has been incorporated where appropriate into the minimum standards.

Summary of feedback from consultations on minimum standards for Alcohol Management Plans.

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