Coles and Woolworths accused of impeding alcohol restrictions intended to reduce Indigenous suicide

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Posted

February 09, 2019 08:13:11

Indigenous and civic leaders in Broome have accused the major supermarkets of resisting further alcohol restrictions, as the community struggles to reduce youth suicide rates.

Broome is the only town not to restrict sales of takeaway alcohol in the Kimberley, where youth suicide rates are five times the national average.

Key points:

  • Indigenous and civic leaders want to further restrict alcohol sales to help reduce suicide rates in the Kimberley
  • Bottle shops cannot sell cask wine or tallies to Kimberley locals, who are restricted to one transaction per day
  • The Broome shire president wants to further restrict takeaway alcohol to one carton of beer, three bottles of wine, or one bottle of spirits per person per day

A West Australian coronial inquest into the deaths of 13 young people in the region released findings on Thursday that all but one of the deaths was due to suicide, and that alcohol played a role in all the deaths.

Extending takeaway alcohol restrictions to Broome was one of the 42 recommendations made by Coroner Ros Fogliani.

Broome Shire president Harold Tracey said the local government had seen the findings coming, and had tried to get alcohol retailers in Broome to agree to voluntary restrictions.

There are already restrictions across the Kimberley on the sale of cask wine and what are known in WA as King Browns — long-necked beers.

Mr Tracey said he wanted to go further, restricting takeaway alcohol to one carton of beer, three bottles of wine, or one bottle of spirits per person per day.

He said locally owned bottle shops supported restrictions, but those owned by major supermarkets refused to support the initiative.

“They seem to think they have already got responsible service of takeaway alcohol processes in place,” Mr Tracey said.

“Which is disappointing because I would love a trial period to take place where we have the opportunity to collect some data, and then in 12 months time we can make the decision whether it works or it doesn’t work.”

Indictment on companies

Alcohol restrictions are a necessary tool to reduce the harm to the community, according to Peter Yu, the CEO of Broome’s traditional owner corporation, Nyamba Buru Yawuru.

He responded in the strongest terms to the suggestion that Coles and Woolworths are resisting increased alcohol restrictions

“The fact that they would be prepared to trade in death, or death being the end result of it, without developing a level of conscience,” Mr Yu said.

“Not withstanding the enormous amount of profit that they take from the community, and the fact that there is a lack of re-investment into the wellbeing of the community is a very clear indictment on those companies.”

The Kimberley District Police Superintendent Greg Crofts said the level of harm being caused by alcohol in the Kimberley made a strong case for restrictions in Broome.

“If the restrictions of alcohol can literally save children’s lives, stop trauma, and help reduce the effect of intergenerational trauma, then I think it should be seriously looked at,” Mr Crofts said.

“And I think everybody needs to seriously consider that if this is one of those things that actually saves these poor kids’ lives, then it would be hard to argue against it.”

Restrictions on takeaway alcohol sales have been introduced progressively across Kimberley towns in response to high levels of alcohol abuse and associated harm including foetal alcohol spectrum disorder and family violence.

The Kimberley towns of Fitzroy Crossing and Halls Creek have the strongest restrictions where the only takeaway alcohol available is light and mid-strength beer.

Derby and Kununurra have limits on the amount of full-strength takeaway alcohol that can be purchased by a person in a day.

Parents leaving kids for alcohol

Broome has not had restrictions on the amounts of takeaway alcohol that can be purchased, and Mr Tracey said this had caused problems.

“We’re the only ones that have unrestricted sales of alcohol, and this all stems back to the problems we’re having with the kids,” he said.

“The feedback from our Halls Creek counterparts is that people are leaving the towns to get to Broome to access alcohol and they’re leaving their kids behind in the towns.”

Woolworths responded with a statement saying they already followed voluntary restrictions, and they would continue to discuss the issue of further restrictions.

“We have two BWS stores in Broome and both have applied voluntary sales restrictions above and beyond other retailers in the region for a number of years now,” Woolworths said in a statement.

“We remain open to working with local stakeholders on further measures to reduce harm in the community, but these need to be sensible, evidence-based and workable in the retail setting.”

Coles also provided a statement saying they would continue to discuss further alcohol restrictions.

“Coles will continue to actively participate in conversations and proposals to improve harm minimisation, particularly in light of the coroner’s recommendations,” the statement read in part.

“Our two Broome Liquorland stores have several harm minimisation measures currently in place.”

These included no cask wine and customers restricted to one transaction per day, which was the same as restrictions imposed by Woolworths liquor chain BWS.

Tourists to the region are exempt from such restrictions.

Mr Tracey said Coles and Woolworths would have one more opportunity to agree to voluntary restrictions at a meeting next week, before local councils applied to the State Government for mandatory restrictions.

He said that the four Kimberley shires had already agreed to proceed with an application under Section 64 of the Liquor Control Act, which has been used to impose obligatory alcohol restrictions in other parts of the Kimberley and the Pilbara.

“It’s just happened in the Pilbara, you’ve seen the uproar in the Pilbara, they’ve got way stricter restrictions in place now than we’re proposing in the Kimberley,” Mr Tracey said.

Mr Yu supported the Shire President’s efforts to restrict access to takeaway alcohol in Broome.

“When the consequences are so dire as presented by the coroner’s report, then we as a responsible community need to come together,” he said.

“Those people who aren’t prepared to contribute in a constructive way to deal with this matter need to understand the sense of frustration and anger that the community feels about it.”

Topics:

alcohol,

suicide,

indigenous-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander,

local-government,

broome-6725,

derby-6728,

kununurra-6743



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