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Park lands booze ban “discriminatory and racist”: poll

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Fining people for drinking alcohol at any time in city park lands would be “discriminatory and racist” towards Aboriginal and homeless people, the majority of respondents to an Adelaide City Council consultation claim – after most councillors backed the move.

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The council in December voted to ask the State Government to enforce a 24/7 alcohol ban across every park in the park lands – a step-up from the current policy implemented in 2014, which only bans the consumption of alcohol across Adelaide’s green belt between 8pm and 11am.

The call was prompted by concerns raised by residents and business owners that the city’s south had become prone to problem drinking and disruptive behaviour stemming from a group of about 50 Aboriginal people who had gathered in the park lands late last year.  

As part of its application to the State Government, the council was required to consult the public to determine the level of community support for the idea.

Results from the consultation – provided to Liquor Licensing Commissioner Dini Soulio this week and obtained by InDaily – show that of the 921 people who responded to the council’s online Your Say questionnaire, 74.6 per cent said they “strongly disagreed” with implementing a 24/7-alcohol ban in the park lands.  

A further 9.3 per cent said they “disagreed” with the policy, while a combined 15.3 per cent of people said they either “agreed” or “strongly agreed”.

The remaining 0.8 per cent of people said they were “neutral” to the idea.

Graph: Nicky Capurso/InDaily

Respondents included residents and business owners, park lands and city visitors, and social service organisations.

A council report summarising the findings said the “overwhelming” number of Your Say respondents felt that a 24/7 park lands dry zone was discriminatory “in that it sought to address the behaviour of vulnerable Aboriginal people with significant health needs”.

“Overall, a majority of respondents perceived this proposal as discriminatory and racist stating it would disproportionally affect people experiencing homelessness as well as Indigenous groups who traditionally gather and socialise in the park lands as they have no where else to be,” the report states.

“It was also noted that this is a cohort of people who are excluded from drinking in licensed premises due to poverty or discrimination.” 

According to the report, those who opposed the policy also said that it would be a “bureaucratic and ‘revenue-raising exercise’ for the council” that would “criminalise” a health issue.

This requires a collaborative, whole-of-government initiative that is Aboriginal community-led and appropriately resourced

Opponents said that a blanket alcohol ban would “impinge on their personal freedoms and ability to enjoy the park lands”, and increase the number of incarcerations if people were unable to pay the $5000 fine for possessing or consuming alcohol in a dry zone area.

“Overall it was apparent from feedback that dry area regulations would not resolve the issues experienced in and around the southern park lands, nor cannot exist in isolation,” the council report states.

“Proper health, housing and welfare supports are required that are culturally appropriate, respond to the unique needs of Aboriginal communities and can keep people safe while they are visiting or looking to move to Adelaide.

“This requires a collaborative, whole-of-government initiative that is Aboriginal community-led and appropriately resourced.” 

Deputy Lord Mayor Alexander Hyde, who led the call to implement the 24/7 alcohol ban alongside a raft of other measures – including the establishment of a taskforce to provide better services for Aboriginal people when they visited Adelaide – said the consultation results were “unsurprising”.

“Naturally, if you’re taking away a privilege that people already have, they’re always going to say ‘no’ or err on the side of no,” he said.

Hyde pointed to results from a separate “intercept survey” of 551 park lands users, which found the majority (58 per cent) either “strongly agreed” or “agreed” to a blanket alcohol ban.

According to the council report, those who supported the ban cited family friendliness and increased safety and cleanliness as key reasons.  

But the report stated that while the results were “genuine and valid”, the intercept survey was “conducted during the day and close to playgrounds, where a majority of respondents would have been families”.

The report also noted that approximately half of the respondents provided feedback while located in the southern park lands, where the majority of the problem behaviour is alleged to have occurred.

Hyde said: “When they actually went out and spoke to the people who are actually using the park lands… they definitely want safe park lands”.  

“The total dry zone is primarily to protect those users who were engaged during the intercept survey,” he said.

“If you look at the consultation as a whole and take into account both surveys – the open consultation and the intercept survey – you arrive at the conclusion that you do need tougher drinking restrictions around areas where families are, but people in other areas don’t want those restrictions.”

Hyde said it was now up to the State Government to decide whether to implement a 24/7 dry zone across all of the park lands.

“To me, it makes a lot of sense for us to have tougher drinking restrictions in areas where there are families and everyone else who wishes to go about their business, to leave them to their devices,” he said.  

“I do think that if we went down that path we would still have the problem, which I was trying to avoid, of just moving problem-drinkers around, but our hands are somewhat tied from a local government perspective.”

Attorney-General Vickie Chapman’s office has previously described the policy as “unworkable”.  

City councillors Anne Moran, Mary Couros, Arman Abrahimzadeh, Simon Hou, Jessy Khera, Franz Knoll and Houssam Abiad supported Hyde’s call to implement the ban at the December vote.

Councillors Phil Martin and Robert Simms voted against it.

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