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The potential re-introduction of the controversial Banned drinker register (BDR) in Alice Springs, Northern Territory (NT), has sparked debate amid criticisms that the current policy of stationing police outside bottle shops is ineffective and racially divisive.
The Alice Springs Alcohol Reference Group (ARG), an advisory group putting together community strategies around alcohol management, is discussing recommendations for an alcohol management plan, and the return of BDRs has been raised. Some members have spoken out in support of the register which saw repeatedly offending problem drinkers placed on a list preventing them from buying takeaway alcohol.
ARG members have also spoken out against the equally controversial policy of temporary beat locations, which has police officers stationed outside bottle shops to check the ID of patrons entering.
However, no decisions on changing policies have been made, according to the group's chair; 'We're working on lots of different issues, including supply reduction, demand reduction, harm reduction,' Damien Ryan, Mayor of Alice Springs, told Guardian Australia.
Mr Ryan said he is always asked for ID at the temporary beat locations, but the policy has been branded by some in the Aboriginal community as racially divisive, as they believe it unfairly targets Aboriginal peoples. Others, such as Northern Territory Minister, Bess Price, have expressed support in the past.
The NT government claimed the process saw a dramatic drop in assaults, but critics say the IDs of non-Indigenous Australians are rarely checked. 'The fact is that a black person is getting asked where they're getting the beer and getting it confiscated,' Michael Liddle, Chairman of the Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation, told Guardian Australia. 'They haven't got an understanding of the rules that govern alcohol. While it is seen as a racist thing, the really important issue is that it's quite humiliating.'
Both Mr Liddle and Di Loechel, of the Australian Hotel Association and a member of the ARG, called for bigger-picture responses to alcohol management, amid concerns these policies - while effective - criminalised alcohol dependency.
Liddle, who is also a member of the reference group but stressed he was not speaking on behalf of it, said the BDR was fair and equal, and not as humiliating as the public police checks, but the issue of alcohol management was bigger than just single policies.
'Statistics show that the BDR did work and statistics show also that this new thing is working, but until there's an acknowledgement by Aboriginal people that we have a problem it will remain the same and these Band-Aid solutions will keep being implemented.'
Source: The Guardian