SYDNEY – Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard warned Wednesday that “rivers of grog” were beginning to flow again in Aboriginal communities as she unveiled a mixed report on tackling indigenous disadvantage.
Gillard took aim at local governments rolling back strict alcohol bans on Aborigines in the nation’s fifth annual “Closing the Gap” address on improving indigenous welfare, employment and education. She said progress was being made on several important measures, including halving infant mortality for Aboriginal Australians, but warned that literacy and numeracy had slipped and called for a review of state alcohol policies.
“I have a real fear that the rivers of grog that wreaked such havoc among indigenous communities are starting to flow once again,” the prime minister told Parliament. “People are witnessing more alcohol-related violence. In and around Alice Springs over the Christmas-New Year period there were at least five alcohol-related deaths.”
Alcohol and pornography bans were a key plank of the so-called Intervention in the Northern Territory in 2007, when troops were sent in by the former conservative government following claims of child abuse and neglect.