Northern Territory communities revert to dry zones

Natasha Fyles has held the small parcel of shares, given to her by her grandma, since 1986.

Natasha Fyles has held the small parcel of shares, given to her by her grandma, since 1986. Photo: AAP

Communities and town camps in the Northern Territory are now reverting to dry zones following new legislation passed on Tuesday.

The new laws prohibit liquor in these areas as of Thursday while residents vote on community alcohol plans.

At the same time, both the NT and federal governments will invest more in health and social services to address root causes of alcohol misuse, said Chief Minister Natasha Fyles.

“People in the Territory want safer communities now. They also want us to address the issue at its source so that our communities continue to be safer in the future,” Ms Fyles told reporters on Thursday.

The legislation requires a 60 per cent approval for community alcohol plans to be passed, and says the vote could be overseen by the Australian Electoral Commission.

However, voter enrolment in remote areas is 20 per cent lower than the national average.

Ms Fyles said the electoral commission’s involvement could help ensure a minimum turnout.

She said it was important to get as many people as possible from their respective communities to vote.

However, she said communities did not have to involve the commission if they didn’t want to, particularly smaller outstations.

Independent MP Yingiya “Mark” Guyula expressed his concern in parliament on Tuesday that this voting process overrode Indigenous decision-making processes.

The new legislation comes after heavy criticism of the NT government for allowing previous alcohol bans to expire without proper consultation.

Two weeks ago, the main representative body for town camps in Alice Springs told the NT News that communities had already submitted alcohol plans to federal and territory governments last year, but neither had responded.


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