Alarm over home brew dangers in Gulf dry community
AN Anglican minister says a dry community in the Gulf of Carpentaria has become so overrun with home brew that children as young as 11 are risking their lives mixing and drinking potent concoctions made from fruit juice and Vegemite.
Rev John Adams, who was instrumental in helping Aurukun indigenous leaders implement an Alcohol Management Plan in the 1990s, visited Mornington Island last week and said it was clear an urgent solution to the problem brought about by alcohol prohibition needed to be
His comments come as Queensland Health figures show more than 50 per cent of all cases at Mornington Island Hospital are alcohol-related, equating to about 170 people a month.
Mr Adams addressed an Alcohol Management Plan forum in Cairns on Friday and said the State Government needed to work with the community to come up with a plan to tackle the issue before it was too late, with children as young as 11 known to brew their own alcohol on the island.
"There needs to be a community approach to solving the problem, not just the Government on their own … if something is imposed, there is going to be resentment," he said.
"That community needs to be empowered to make its own decisions on what is the way forward."
Mornington Island’s community justice group, Junkuri Laka, is working with residents at the behest the State Government to come up with a solution.
The group’s co-ordinator, Berry Zondag, told The Cairns Post it was "not a problem that is pervasive throughout the entire community", although since prohibition in 2003, some people on the island had taken to mixing home brew with "something of fervour".
He said about 80 to 90 per cent of cases going through court each month were alcohol-related.
"We do take the position indeed that managed alcohol is a better situation than prohibiting alcohol," he said.
"The objective of the legislation, which was to reduce the occurrence of alcohol-related offending, has not worked.
"Since the prohibition there has been no significant change in those crime levels."
He said the former government had promised to build a rehabilitation centre on the island to deal with alcoholic residents, but failed to do so.
New Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs Minister Glen Elmes has stated he is against total alcohol bans.
Mt Isa Health Service District executive director of nursing Michelle Garner said about 330 people presented to the local hospital a month, and more than 50 per cent were alcohol-related cases.
She said anecdotally, staff were aware of home brew mixtures in the community but had "not specifically come across anyone who has presented as a result of consuming such a mixture".
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Concern: Rev John Adams has been appalled by the home brew network on Mornington Island which is impacting on children as young as 11. Picture: STEWART McLEAN