Two WA peak bodies have issued a joint call for health to be made front-and-centre in the debate over Pilbara-wide liquor restrictions as they urge the State Government to do more to educate community members about the grassroots impact of alcohol abuse.
The WA Council of Social Service and WA Network of Alcohol and other Drug Agencies this week issued a statement calling on the Government to support greater community engagement on tougher liquor restrictions proposed for the region to help reduce alcohol-related harm in the Pilbara.
It marks the first time the organisations have spoken out about the restrictions, prompted by findings the Pilbara has some of the nation’s highest levels of alcohol consumption and almost double the State average.
WACOSS Pilbara manager Sarah Turner said the health and wellbeing of communities in the region was being rocked by alcohol abuse. “Our local community services are behind the proposed liquor restrictions,” she said.
“It is essential that we, as a community and a region, all contribute to the solution.”
WANADA chief executive Jill Rundle said all community members had a role to play in the effort to reduce alcohol-related harm in the Pilbara.
“The Kimberley Coronial Inquest into youth suicides highlighted success stories related to liquor restrictions in that region, and has also called for region-wide restrictions,” she said.
“The evidence is clear: the community benefits from whole-of-population initiatives when the whole of the community has been affected.”
She said ideally a “suite” of initiatives would be introduced to combat alcohol-related harm, with further restrictions being one measure among them.
The organisations have also written to Racing and Gaming Minister Paul Papalia requesting more information about the proposed restrictions and plans for community consultation around them.
Both Ms Turner and Ms Rundle said they would like to see greater community awareness of the harms associated with alcohol consumption and intentions of the restrictions “so the whole community can get behind this initiative”.
Pilbara liquor restrictions, first applied for by WA Police, were originally due to be implemented on March 31 but have been suspended until several appeals to the proposal are cleared by the WA Liquor Commission.
Most Pilbara licensees, local governments and politicians are against the proposed restrictions, and a number of local surveys conducted since 2017 found most community members are also opposed.
A more publicly favoured measure is a Northern Territory-style banned drinkers register, which many view as a more targeted approach.
However, there is some grassroots support for restrictions, including from local services providers and Town of Port Hedland Mayor Camilo Blanco, who last week called on the community to support limits on alcohol purchases.