A wide range of views were expressed during the consultations on the draft minimum standards for Alcohol Management Plans (AMPs) in the Northern Territory. Overall, the feedback received was supportive of the minimum standards and indicated that the content of the draft minimum standards was comprehensive and appropriate. There was also some valuable input that warranted some changes to the draft standards. These have been incorporated into the final minimum standards.
The following testimonials reflect a selected portion of the feedback received from several individuals and organisations and are intended to convey a flavour of the variety of views canvassed in the consultation process. The opinions have been de-identified to protect the privacy of the individuals and groups involved in providing feedback.
Comments received through the consultation process were broadly supportive of the minimum standards and indicated that the content of the minimum standards was comprehensive and appropriate. The feedback clearly showed that the standards need to remain flexible enough to accommodate differences in community situations and needs, as well as allowing for differences in the scope of AMPs and approaches to implementation among communities.
Some stakeholders commented that the standards were too complex and required simplification. Many stakeholders also felt that the language used in the standards was too difficult and needed to be written in a clearer and more simplified way without government jargon or complex wording.
“The Minimum standards are clear to someone with an excellent grasp of the English language.”
“Clear to a professional person, not clear to a non-professional person or a community person. Very jargon heavy.”
“The draft minimum standards are quite complex…”
“The language of the title (minimum standards) is not helpful as many will read the document looking for minimum standards – and there are none. Use of the word ‘standards’ implies the existence of a list of prescribed amounts or types of liquor that may be included in an AMP.”
“Due to the complexity of the draft standards, they require a level of technical expertise that will in most cases be over and above that which a community, without significant external support and resources, can monitor, evaluate and be held responsible and accountable for. This could negatively influence the ability of communities to own their Alcohol Management Plans.”
Feedback emphasised the importance of a comprehensive and continued community consultation and engagement process in the development and implementation of AMPs. Stakeholders requested that the standards include a more inclusive stakeholder list also including, for example, children, all community residents and representatives from local liquor outlets and businesses and have a whole of community focus.
“For a plan to be successful it needs to be driven from the ground up. People need to ‘own’ the plan and know what it is proposing.”
“The Plans must be developed in partnership between government and community representatives by way of thorough, comprehensive community consultation and engagement.”
“Consultation and engagement of community members needs to be done at all stages of the development of the AMP. It is also essential that AMPs are a community initiative and that there is commitment from the community for the AMP.”
“This current proposed standard does not include children as a group of stakeholders to be included in the consultation and engagement for the development of Alcohol Management Plans.”
Stakeholders and communities also emphasised the importance of the role of service providers and governments and the need for them to recognise, commit to and act on their respective commitments and roles in developing and implementing AMPs.
“An Alcohol Management Plan should include roles and responsibilities of local health clinics and regional service providers in helping to prevent and manage alcohol problems in the community… The Alcohol Management Plan should include evidence that the stakeholders are aware of, and accept, the roles and responsibilities specified, and have sufficient time and resources and personnel to perform their share of responsibilities in relation to implementation of the AMP.”
Stakeholders asked that proactive and preventative and early intervention demand and harm reduction strategies also be highlighted in the minimum standards, including a range of supply control, demand reduction and harm minimisation strategies.
“Further demand reduction strategies, such as adequately-resourced youth development programs in every community, need to be considered.”
“The permit system is working well.”
“…does not have particular issues with any types of trials. For example the trialling of changed opening hours or the introduction of mid strength UDL cans. They say ‘try them out and see what works’… They also spoke about the Blue Light disco. The sergeant said that the NT Government has just announced that they will not support them financially anymore. He said that he and his officers will keep it going anyway on a volunteer basis with the aid of a few donations from local businesses. He felt that the disco has been a tremendous success this year.”
Health promotion and education were areas that many key stakeholders wanted addressed in both the minimum standards and, more generally, in Alcohol Management Plans. Additionally, a number of stakeholders wanted to see the impacts of alcohol abuse more clearly outlined in the minimum standards.
“People must be aware of and take responsibility for their own health issues. There must be capacity building and health awareness programs.”
“FASD must become part of the language and all policy related to alcohol abuse, as it is the earliest and most preventable type of harm in the lifespan of a person.”
“The community is concerned about the health, safety and behaviour of people at the drinking paddock.”
“Education of community members on responsible consumption and the service of alcohol is important.”
“There needs to be provisions for education against alcohol abuse to divert people from developing alcohol problems.”
Some stakeholders also reported that gambling and drugs other than alcohol also have devastating effects in Aboriginal communities.
“Minimum standards should also cover drugs and gunja.”
“Women in the community stated that gunja use and associated violence has become a serious issue in the community.”
“The real problem here is not alcohol, it’s drugs…drugs are the real problem in this community. Alcohol is well controlled.”
“Gambling is also a problem this community would like addressed.”
A wide range of views on alcohol management were expressed during the consultations. Much of the feedback centred on ways in which alcohol abuse was harming communities. Some feedback also commented on the effect of alcohol on the lives of children, including impacts on behaviour, school attendance and general health.
“Grog should be kept out of the community. Kids should be educated about the dangers of grog.”
“When alcohol is prevalent in communities, school children are tired. They tease and fight.”
“The alcohol issue is impacting on late school attendance and youth behaviour.”
“Community members want some action taken on the level of alcohol problems in the community, which is affecting school attendance.”
A frequent response was that more police, permanent police forces in remote areas and stronger policing were needed to address alcohol supply and harm reduction.
“Members want better engagement from Police.”
“A lack of police presence is a major issue at the moment. We need help to stop grog running that is occurring at the moment.”
“If Alcohol Management Plans are put in place there should be a permanent Police presence...”
“For the AMP to work, it is essential that there be a permanent police presence in the community. This is not just for enforcement of the conditions of the AMP, but also to allow the police to have input in the management committee itself.”
Some of the feedback highlighted the importance of having a functioning Night Patrol service, and expressed a desire to see Night Patrol expanded and better resourced.
“Night Patrol was doing a good job but has fallen down recently.”
“Night Patrol has the capacity to visit drinking camps and drive vehicles owned by intoxicated members back to the community.”
Communities that wanted to develop AMPs were clear about the types of help that they required from government. The feedback also emphasised the need for more detailed guidelines of what AMP strategies should encompass or include.
“The community spoke about having a section in the AMP where alternative activities apart from drinking alcohol are listed- this might then be an area where governments can then focus funding opportunities.”
“The women were adamantly opposed to drinking areas and agreed that it be removed from the AMP.”
Some communities said they were keen to beginning AMP discussions while other said that they are not ready to begin developing an AMP.
“Communities are enthusiastic for AMP discussions to commence.”
“We are not at a point to commence community consultation on this issue at this stage.”
Some respondents said they wanted their communities to remain ‘dry’ and were supportive of alcohol restricted areas and prohibitive measures that are currently in place.
“When there is alcohol in the community, there is violence.”
“The community should remain dry and does not need an AMP.”
“Women DO NOT want grog back in the community.”
“The community and service providers are adamant they want to maintain the existing ban of alcohol.”
Some of the feedback received suggested the purpose of an AMP was not clearly understood
“We do not want to discuss an AMP, we do not need an AMP, we will not allow alcohol in our community.”
“The council is concerned that to date, the AMP process has, in some places, established unrealistic expectations about the purpose and intent of Alcohol Management Plans.”
“It may also be argued…that having ‘reduce the harm arising’ as the primary purpose of an AMP can only be met by a complete ban on all liquor availability, which is not the intent of the AMP.”
Numerous comments highlighted the need for government assistance to maximise or broker available resources and programs or find new resources to enhance the effectiveness of AMPs. Comments also indicated that some communities would need government support and funding to successfully implement an AMP.
“It is difficult to envisage how communities will be able to achieve the desired level of genuine participation without considerable assistance. The Draft Minimum Standards should include information about how and where communities, organisations etc. could expect to obtain the necessary external expertise and resources required to plan, implement, govern, police and evaluate any aspect of an AMP.”
Some key stakeholders also expressed a desire for the reinstatement of the Banned Drinker Register, as they felt that it was beginning to have a beneficial effect on the management of alcohol in communities. Stakeholders also emphasised the positive impact additional regulation of alcohol availability (such as a floor price) would have in ensuring the successful implementation of AMPs.
“There needs to be an urgent reinstatement of the Banned Drinkers’ Register arrangements, as it was beginning to have a very beneficial effect, including in relation to alcohol access and consumption in town camps.”
“The removal of the BDR has a lot of people confused.”
Evaluation of the progress and effectiveness of AMPs and the strategies implemented under them was highlighted as an important aspect that communities want guidance and support to achieve effectively. A number of stakeholders talked about the importance of benchmarks and access to baseline data to do this.
“It is suggested that communities should use base line local alcohol indicator data to inform evidence based strategies.”
“Having a requirement that some performance measures should be identified and then leave the evaluation to the evaluation experts is the way to go.”
For more information email: AMPMinimumStandardsConsult@dss.gov.au