Indigenous health experts reject MP's call for removal of alcohol restriction

Leading medical researchers from Australia’s George Institute for Global Health are surprised by recent statements made by a Western Australian Member of Parliament, Hon. Carol Anne Martin MLA, who is calling for the removal of the alcohol restrictions in the Kimberley towns of Halls Creek and Fitzroy Crossing. The George Institute considers these statements a disappointing response to the positive community impacts of the alcohol restriction.

The pioneering restriction on full-strength ‘takeaway’ alcohol began in 2007 and was led by the Indigenous communities of the Fitzroy Valley in Australia’s remote northwest. The restriction includes no sales of full-strength ‘takeaway’ alcohol. Light beer is still available to purchase as ‘takeaway’.

"The suggestion that the community-led restriction be removed is a blanket rejection of evidence that says it is working", says leading Indigenous health researcher, Professor Alan Cass. "A comprehensive report after six months showed this community-led restriction had resulted in a clear improvement in health and social outcomes including a 50% reduction in hospital admissions, a 27% reduction in alcohol-related violence and a 14% increase in school attendance."

Prior to the restriction, the community had experienced 13 suicides in 13 months. Reports of family violence were commonplace and alcohol consumption was rising at an alarming rate.

"This project has not only provided health benefits for the community, it also shows that initiatives for the community and led by the community can work. We should be congratulating and embracing these initiatives and working with Fitzroy Valley and other communities to support the introduction of similar, effective and community-led programs", added Professor Cass who is also Co-Director of the Poche Centre for Indigenous Health at the University of Sydney.

The George Institute supported the making of Yajilarra, a documentary that followed the journey of the Fitzroy Valley Community as they took action to reduce the health and social impacts of alcohol in their community.