Alcohol Restrictions in Indigenous Towns & Communities: A Liberal Dilemma


CIS Policy Analyst Sara Hudson presents on alcohol restrictions in Indigenous towns and communities, the first instalment of the CIS Meet the Researchers lecture series for 2011.

The harmful effects of excessive alcohol consumption in Indigenous communities have been the subject of a number of recent reports and government action – notably the Little Children are Sacred report and the Northern Territory Intervention, which introduced alcohol restrictions. These restrictions have been criticised for being top-down, government imposed and discriminatory. But not all restrictions on alcohol are the same. There is a continuum of restrictions from total prohibitions on alcohol use – like the NT Intervention and dry community declarations – to restrictions on the days, hours and strength of alcohol that can be sold. Controls on the availability of alcohol are common mechanisms used by state and territory governments to control the harms caused by alcohol misuse. Attempts by liberal democracies to regulate alcohol supply are at odds with liberal philosophies of individual freedom and responsibility. The problem is that not everyone behaves responsibly when consuming alcohol; not only do they harm themselves but they also cause significant harm to others. Arguably for there to be a civil society, regulation (or controls) on alcohol consumption is needed.

A Meet the Reseacher lecture