10 May 2023

It breaks my very soul: CEO calls out public drunkenness and domestic violence perpetrators in community

| Samuel Davis
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SLY grog swindlers peddling cask wine and spirits are fuelling a spate of senseless and violent acts in western Cape York, angry community leaders say.

Pormpuraaw Aboriginal Shire Council CEO Edward Natera has made an emotional plea, calling on residents to curb their antisocial behaviour within the township.

And as a last resort, Mr Natera said he’s even taken to posting notices throughout the community in a bid to solve the problem.

“It’s really bad. Everyone’s drunk and out in the street,” he told Cape York Weekly.

“The sly grog has been bobbing up for the last three weeks. There are people not turning up to work, threatening managers.

“If they say things are cool and calm, that’s a load of bullshit.”

Mr Natera said a recent late night incident where a man allegedly damaged the security grill and window at the community store – forcing it to remain closed until it was repaired – was “unbecoming”.

“What is our community coming to? At the end of the day, it’s about personal responsibility,” he said.

“Don’t blame others. They had to close for four hours (while the door was repaired).”

Pormpuraaw has a four-person police station but in recent months has used additional resources to curb the amount of sly grog being smuggled into the community.

Sergeant Matt Dowling said March through July had been a difficult period in the community.

“The antisocial behaviour stems from the influx of alcohol into the community,” he said.

“I’d argue the last three weeks have been better than what it has been the last few months and we’re getting more support to address a lot of the issues.

“In terms of antisocial behaviour and domestic violence the community can reach out to us because we have a large number of services to support victims.”

Large amounts of sly grog seized, including a large haul earlier this month, was encouraging, Sergeant Dowling said.

“We got six cartons of beer, one carton of UDLs, 14 bottles of spirits and one cask of wine,” he said of the seizure.

“So we have (slowed down supply) to some extent. But we’d appreciate more community support because we’re never going to stop all of it.”

It comes as Pompuraaw United Brothers Social Club seeks to upgrade its restricted liquor permit to allow it to sell take away alcohol in the community.

A spokesperson for the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation said the council, the Community Justice Group and police would be consulted as part of the application process.

“Following a review of alcohol management plans … the Queensland Government is implementing a renewed approach to alcohol management which commits to local leadership driving alcohol management arrangements in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities,” the spokesperson said.

“The plans include alcohol restrictions and supporting strategies tailored to the aspirations of each community to improve safety and wellbeing, reduce demand, address sly grog and homebrew and promote a positive alcohol culture.”

Mr Natera wouldn’t comment on the liquor licence but said there was no excuse for criminal behaviour in the community.

“It not only breaks my heart, it breaks my very soul to see people use alcohol as an excuse for domestic violence,” he said.

“It boils down to leadership in the community. If Indigenous communities can get up, stand up and show up themselves, it would be easier to Close the Gap.”

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