WARNING: VACCHO advises Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that the following article contains references to those who have returned to the Dreaming.
The Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) welcomes the Andrews-Allan Government’s decision to implement an Aboriginal-led health-based response which will prioritise services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
VACCHO acknowledges the Andrews-Allan government for finally delivering the decriminalisation of public intoxication with no new arrest powers for police.
Over the years, public intoxication laws have created an unsafe environment for all Victorians – but particularly for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have been disproportionately impacted by the application of the laws.
The decriminalisation of public intoxication was a key recommendation of the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody because of its dangerous and discriminatory impact.
Almost six years have passed since much-loved Yorta Yorta mother, sister, grandmother, and community advocate Tanya Day lost her life after sustaining a head injury in a Victorian police cell, two weeks after her arrest under public intoxication laws.
As of today, being intoxicated will no longer be considered a criminal offence – a change that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities have been advocating for over several decades.
Public intoxication reforms are about learning from past failings by applying meaningful changes that implement a health-based model that prevents people from being placed in potentially life-threatening situations.
This new direction outlined is aligned with the evidence that demonstrates a health-based harm reduction approach saves lives and provides better outcomes for at-risk individuals and the broader community.
Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations and their dedicated teams have worked side by side with Communities to deliver exceptional health and wellbeing outcomes for fifty years. They know their Communities inside and out and are best placed to provide services in a high-trust, culturally safe environment.
VACCHO CEO Jill Gallagher AO believes the decriminalisation of public intoxication laws is vital for the betterment of the health and safety of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Victoria, and indeed all Victorians.
“This is an historic and long overdue reform. I acknowledge the Andrews-Allan Government for empowering Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations to the front and centre of this historic reform.”
“This initiative champions Aboriginal culture and Aboriginal ways of knowing, being, and doing to deliver positive health and wellbeing outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities.”
“Living and breathing in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community, we have regularly seen first-hand the detrimental and dangerous impacts public drunkenness laws have on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”
“For the same behaviour, Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people in Victoria have faced inordinately higher rates of incarceration for public drunkenness than non-Aboriginal Victorians face.”
“In some instances, this can lead to devastating outcomes with some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people subjected to far harsher and inhumane treatment whilst in custody.”
“Alcohol misuse is a public health issue, not a crime, and therefore should be treated as such.”
VACCHO pays tribute to the Day family for their staunch and unwavering leadership and advocacy.