Picture:John Paterson-CEO of NACCHO affiliate Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT (AMSANT),one of the driving forces behind the APO NT (full details of APO below)
APO NT does not support passage of the Alcohol Mandatory Treatment Bill (the Bill). Our organisations do not agree with key assumptions which underpin the Bill. We do not agree that mandatory treatment as provided for in this bill is an effective way to assist in reducing alcohol related harm in the NT.
The mandatory rehabilitation scheme outlined in the Bill is not based on the best available evidence about what is effective to address alcohol dependence. The measures contained in the Bill will not be cost-effective and will not work.
The Bill in its current form would be a de facto re-criminalisation of public drunkenness which is contrary to the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. APO NT believes detaining problems drinks will lead to unnecessary tensions between Aboriginal people and police and is likely to result in more Aboriginal people entering the criminal justice system. Prisons in the NT are already overflowing with Aboriginal people.
We also believe that the Bill indirectly discriminates against Aboriginal people in the NT, particularly those Aboriginal people living remotely who are often more likely to drink in public places when they visit centres or towns.
APO NT believes that there may be a limited role for involuntary treatment in extreme circumstances where individuals are at very high risk of harm and unable to manage their circumstances, where clinically effective and culturally appropriate methods of engaging the patient into treatment have been tried and failed, and where strong safeguards and protections are in place, including that it does not criminalise, either directly, the behaviours it seeks to address.
The NT is a small jurisdiction with a finite amount of resources for programs and services. The budget allocation for the mandatory rehabilitation scheme is $45 million to set up and run the scheme for a year, which works out to an average spending of approximately $80,000 per problem drinker. APO NT believes that the NT, by investing in existing voluntary rehabilitation and other alcohol treatment programs including AOD treatment provided in Aboriginal primary health care, as part of a holistic suite of reforms which includes population supply reduction measures.
About APO NT
Aboriginal Peak Organisations of the Northern Territory – APO NT – is an alliance comprising the Central Land Council (CLC), Northern Land Council (NLC), Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT (AMSANT), North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) and Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service (CAALAS).
The alliance was created to provide a more effective response to key issues of joint interest and concern affecting Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory, including through advocating practical policy solutions to government. APO NT is committed to increasing Aboriginal involvement in policy development and implementation, and to expanding opportunities for Aboriginal community control. APO NT also seeks to strengthen networks between peak Aboriginal organisations and smaller regional Aboriginal organisations in the NT.