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Health authorities are warning there is a growing industry in the sale of toxic homemade alcohol in some of Queensland's Indigenous communities. The Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council says some people are fermenting Vegemite and fruit juice and selling it.
Alcohol management plans were introduced in 19 of Queensland’s Indigenous communities nearly 10 years ago. Total bans or tight restrictions were imposed to reduce alcohol-fuelled violence. However, a black market has emerged in some communities in the state’s Gulf region.
Toxic homebrew is not a new problem for Indigenous communities in Queensland and other parts of the country. However, Selwyn Button, from the Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council, says the fact some people are making money from it isn't widely discussed. 'It has been there for some time. It's just it's something that isn't talked about or isn't discussed. I think the more issues we're seeing now as a result of the industry, and as a result of the consumption, the more people are now wanting to talk about it and willing to actually voice their concerns about the long-term effects on the community.
Selwyn Button says many community leaders are frustrated with the persistent problem. He is urging the Queensland Government to rethink how it approaches the issue. 'The response to the issues at the moment have been about increasing the numbers of convictions, increasing the number of people who have been breached for carrying alcohol in communities. These issues then have a cascading effect, they flow on to non-payment of fines, ending up in prisons, and it creates the whole cycle then of dysfunction,' he said.
The Queensland Government is currently reviewing how alcohol is managed in the state's Indigenous communities. It says it will consider lifting alcohol bans in some communities if they can prove it won't cause problems. A spokesperson says the State Government is still waiting for a submission from some communities in the Gulf.
Source: Australian Broadcasting Corporation