A radical shake-up of Queensland’s indigenous communities will begin next Tuesday, with new welfare and alcohol laws coming into force.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Minister Lindy Nelson-Carr said between July 1 and December 31, indigenous councils would have to give up their general liquor licences.
The move affects nine canteens and taverns in remote communities and aims to reduce alcohol-related harm, violence and crime, increase school attendance, and address health and child protection issues.
Ms Nelson-Carr said the reforms would be accompanied by $66 million for improved health and social services.
These could include night patrols, detoxification and rehabilitation services, better access to more health services and a greater police presence.
“Each community is unique, which is why we are working closely with community leaders to develop a tailored approach to alcohol harm reduction, including looking at the services necessary to support communities to go as dry as possible,” she said.
Woorabinda in central Queensland has chosen to go dry from July 1 while other communities were still considering possible alcohol restrictions, Ms Nelson-Carr said.
“Down the track, some councils may choose to allow a tavern, restaurant or community club to apply for a liquor licence,” she said.
“Others may decide to remain dry or maintain a restricted carriage limit.”
Tuesday also marks the start of the Cape York welfare reform trial, which will see a Family Responsibilities Commission operate in four communities, requiring parents to make decisions in the best interests of their children in order to receive welfare payments.
Premier Anna Bligh said the commission was ready to start its work, despite concerns it had been rolled out in haste.
“The money is there in the budget, I think they are probably still recruiting staff, but I’m not going to delay a legal process or a legal entitlement simply because we’re still waiting for a couple of the last-minute things to come on board,” Ms Bligh said.
“It will start, and grow.”
Ms Bligh said she hoped the trial, championed by indigenous leader Noel Pearson, would lead to real gains.
“This is a really important reform. Queensland’s leading Australia in this area, it’s a completely new way of operating and I look forward to seeing how they go,” she said.