Northern Territory

Dec 24, 2012

No room at the inn for Aboriginal customers in Borroloola

Many Aboriginal people support booze bans in local communities. But a raid on Chrisco hampers in the Northern Territory left a bad taste. Sean Kerins of ANU's Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy reports from Borroloola.

Local kids from the Borroloola community in the Northern Territory

“The role of ‘punishing the blacks’ was usually done by the police,” says historian Tony Roberts in his gruelling Blackheath History lecture of 2009. He was talking about policing the frontier of the south-west Gulf of Carpentaria in the late 19th century. He could have been talking about today, in Borroloola, the main township in the south-west Gulf. They’re still punishing.

Free Trial

Proudly annoying those in power since 2000.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial to keep reading and get the best of Crikey straight to your inbox

By starting a free trial, you agree to accept Crikey’s terms and conditions

30 comments

Leave a comment

30 thoughts on “No room at the inn for Aboriginal customers in Borroloola

  1. Arty

    No matter how much things change, they still stay the same.

    Maybe it would be more effective if everyone in the town was subject to the same anti-alcohol laws.

  2. POV 888

    This article brings tears to my eyes.
    I feel there is a culture of bias among some law enforcement officers.
    What happens to the confiscated alcohol in this situation?
    Is there a drinking culture among law enforcement officers too?

  3. Hamis Hill

    Some effort to overcome the isolation might help.
    What if the sister city arrngement that exists between Australian Towns and those overseas was to become the basis for a sister school arrangment between the children of remote communities and those in suburbia.
    It is bound to enhance education and as a side benefit any heavy-handedness on the part of “Authority” would never, ever escape detection and denouncement.
    The NBN will enhance such fraternal connections between Australians, (is this why the conservatives wish to demolish the NBN?).

  4. Arty

    Hamis Hill: I like it. It is one of those crazy ideas that just might work.

    But tell me why many Australians can discuss the indigenous cum alcohol problem over a glass or three of a good red.

    But getting back to your beaut idea should it included an exchange of policemen?

    Just imagine Vaucluse as sister city to Borroloola!

  5. paddy

    Perhaps the saddest piece I’ve read all week. (And there were plenty of tragic contenders.)
    Maybe one day, the people with the power and the money, will have the decency to consult with those who they’re supposedly, trying to empower.
    But I’m not holding my breath.
    Merry Xmas indeed. 🙁

  6. Christopher Nagle

    It is clear to me that the writer simply cannot distinguish between compassion and indulgence.

    My measure of that is to simply apply the same standard of conduct to indigenous communities as one would to any other; East African, Chinese, Middle Eastern or European. We are a multi-cultural society and indigenous communities are just another part of the mix.

    Indigenous societies have suffered. Well so have a lot of our new arrivals; particularly the refugees. Their experience puts indigenous history into some sort of perspective. But they don’t make excuses for themselves, because they are too busy taking advantage of the opportunities that Australia offers to anyone prepared to make the effort.

    All our indigenous brothers and sisters need to do is make the same decisions as their Sudanese and Somali neighbors. Perhaps they should get to know each other. Swap some massacre stories.

    Personally, I don’t think the relationship would last long. Getting drunk together only takes you so far…

  7. Bird Kenneth

    Yes, Christopher we are a multi cultural society, but even new arrivals learn very quickly that they can metaphorically kick aborigines and TIs with impunity.

    There are 2 laws in the Territory, one for white fellas, including the Sudanese and Somali and another for the Black fellas.

    Your place will never have ‘Shame’ signs put out on the verge just for your ‘protection’. You can have a picnic in a park in Darwin and not have a ‘paddy wagon’ drive up to make sure you’re not drinking grog. In fact the white fellas up here have a beer can regatta; if that’s not a double standard, I don’t know what is. White fellas can walk anywhere in town and not get questioned about what they’re doing.

    Sean is neither showing compassion or being indulgent. He is stating what is.

  8. Arty

    Bird Kenneth: your post reads as though you are suggesting that the subjects of of your advice should become refugees in their own land.

  9. baabaablacksheep

    So were they better in the 30 or 40 years before the “shame” signs were around?

    Do you people even know how disappointed foreign tourists feel when they travel to the outbacks and see all Aboriginal do is drinking all day, totally shattered after being so excited with anticipation?

    The alcohol causing brain damage to the babies and repeat more cycle of poverty. Family in Africa, Asia have nothing and getting nothing from the government, they put their children to school and try to get an education to get a better life. So many of them are so desperate to get to Australia for an opportunity to get a better life, they risk their lives at sea for the chance, and many of them find success in Australia and in many other countries around the world. Stop blaming the system for everything and do some self examination.

    There may need to be more consultation, and better policy to prevent people from driving to other towns to drink and risk their lives. More social counselling, mental health services, possibly allow for a pub to be open but the locals (white or black) have to register for a drink card and there is a limit on how many drink they can be served on the day. Yes, the attitude of the cops should be changed and the way they handle the problem, but if the Aborigines don’t change themselves, don’t expect others to be able to change either. You fight back by taking initiative and be in charge of your own lives through all odds and obstacles, the refugees do it and they start from having nothing except the will and determination.

  10. Arty

    Every Australian has the right, sometimes exercised, to destroy his/her life and the life of those close through the use of alcohol.

    Why single-out the people of Borroloola?

Leave a comment

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details

Sending...