Report on Alice Springs riots recommends urgent ban on alcohol in central Australian communities

The Northern Territory government urgently needs to amend its laws to impose alcohol bans in central Australian communities, including the town’s campsites in Alice Springs, according to a quick review.

The bans would remain in place until communities have time to develop their own alcohol management plans. Once those plans are in place, communities can opt out of legislative restrictions.

These are key recommendations from the highly anticipated first report by Dorrelle Anderson, who has been appointed regional controller for central Australia in the wake of rising civil unrest and mob violence in Alice Springs.

Related: ‘Under siege’: As Alice Springs becomes a national hotspot, locals fear what comes next

The report, details of which began to emerge on Thursday, may not be made public until next week.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said both governments would consider the report at their respective cabinet meetings next week and the NT government would publish it after cabinet consideration.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese met NT Chief Minister Natasha Fyles on Thursday afternoon to discuss the report and the way forward.

Earlier, at a press conference in Canberra, Fyles declined to reveal what was in the report or confirm details reported in the media, but said he wanted “sustainable” changes, not “band-aid fixes”.

Fyles suggested that more government services, such as Centrelink offices, could be built in regional communities. She suggested that such changes could address “urban drift” from remote communities to larger centers.

“That may be from the alcohol, but it’s not the only problem,” Fyles said.

The chief minister and her attorney general, Chansey Paech, dismissed questions about alcohol “opt-out” measures in communities and appeared to hint that such measures were not on the table. When asked about local measures at the community level, Fyles said that “we entrust the alcohol issue to them,” again suggesting a vote for communities to vote on their own drinking rules.

Albanese has already said he wants to act on the report “as soon as possible” but said “some of these issues are cross-generational.” “There are no easy ready-to-use solutions. It’s not just about the alcohol. It’s about employment. It is about the provision of services. It’s about putting people on the ground.”

NT Police have reported a reduction in anti-social behavior and domestic violence incidents since the temporary restrictions went into effect last week.

Since late last month, there have been alcohol-free takeout days on Mondays and Tuesdays and reduced alcohol hours on other days, with takeout allowed between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. and a limit of one transaction per person per day.

Fyles said the NT needed more funding to handle the challenges ahead.

“The Commonwealth needs to step up and we need to see funding based on need,” he said. “I have said it time and time again: the NT, based on GST formulas and the cost we have to provide services, is simply not fair.”

Northern Territory chief executive of the Aboriginal Medical Alliance, Dr John Paterson, said it was time for the “era of intervention and knee-jerk responses” to end.

“What we need is for the Commonwealth and NT governments to sit down with our community controlled organizations and negotiate a formal agreement on new policies, programs and funding to improve outcomes for Aboriginal people across the Territory,” Paterson said.

Intervention-era bans on alcohol in remote Aboriginal communities ended in July, when liquor became legal in some communities for the first time in 15 years, while other communities were able to purchase alcohol to go without restrictions.

Related: The deep roots of the crisis in Alice Springs

Alice Springs has become a hotspot in recent weeks, with a spike in property crime and violence prompting new alcohol restrictions.

Last week, the prime minister and the territory’s government politicians announced additional funding for measures including liquor license enforcement and emergency accommodation.

Samantha Armstrong, a woman from Southern Arrernte, Pitjantjatjara and Luritja and a language educator from Pertame, said that the voices of the locals must take precedence when working on solutions.

“Elders have been trying to make their voices heard for years on government policies related to Indian issues, particularly around Alice Springs,” Armstrong said.

He said there had been less crime and anti-social behavior over the past week, but he did not want to go back to the blanket alcohol bans and revenue management of the intervention era.

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