AFLS Media Statement 16.09.21 – Sly Grogging

Aboriginal Family Legal Services WA (ALFS), a key legal assistance provider in East and West Kimberley regions, has expressed serious concern over the announcement by the State Government today that it will introduce new regulations to combat the practice of ‘sly grogging’ this week.

AFLS CEO Corina Martin said that while it was positive to see the Government thinking about how to limit liquor supply in the Kimberley, where consumption is often a driver of family and domestic violence, the approach taken by the Government was not transparent and was discriminatory towards Aboriginal people in the region.
“Under these new regulations, WA Police will have the discretion to seize and dispose of illegal alcohol on the spot, with the purpose of stamping out sly grogging in regional and remote communities. The historical relationship between Aboriginal people and the police, which is characterised by mistrust and prejudice, does not tend towards a fair assessment of vehicles which will be stopped under these new regulations. In fact, the exemptions to these carriage limits which apply to tourists, pastoralists, station owners and operators of remote work sites, only reinforces the racist intent of this legislation.”

Ms. Martin said that contemporary police responses to family violence, which continue to be affected by an overarching history of poor police responses, including the historical role of police in child removals and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths in custody, set the tone for the application of the new regulations and police decision making about the purpose of the use of liquor.
“Today, poor police responses and practices contribute to stereotyping and often result in the misidentification of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women as offenders, rather than victims of crime. I am concerned that the new section of the Liquor Control Act will disproportionately affect Aboriginal people in the same way. Minister Whitby says it is up to police to use their good, common sense in making determinations as to whether a vehicle is carrying alcohol for the purposes of sly grogging, or if they’re going out on a camping or fishing trip. That common sense has only contributed to the disempowerment of and discrimination against Aboriginal people in the past.”

Ms. Martin expressed further concern over the lack of consultation on the legislative changes and said that the consultation which did occur was inadequate, given that it was with the main cause of the problem, the liquor industry. Failures to consult adequately and appropriately with the affected community would only have negative implications.
“There are real, critical problems in the Kimberley that require a joint response from community, service providers, and Government together. This top-down approach being enforced by the Government through the WA Police is discriminatory and will fail to improve the social and health outcomes of the community, when it is being thrown upon them,” Ms. Martin said.

Media Contact – Laney Gould, 9355 1502