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Increase in alcohol-related assaults and hospital admissions in the Top End

Photo: NT alcohol ban laws under scrutiny
A 19 per cent jump in alcohol-related assaults in the NT and 9 per cent increase in hospital admissions have sparked questions about whether the BDR is working.

Alcohol-related assaults and hospital admissions have risen significantly in the Top End since the Northern Territory Government introduced its controversial Banned Drinkers Register.

The BDR applies to people identified as serious alcohol abusers engaging in anti-social, possibly illegal behaviour, with 6000 people on the register.

But anyone who buys takeaway liquor in the NT must show photo ID to check if they are banned.

A 19 per cent jump in alcohol-related assaults recorded by NT Police in the last fiscal year and nine per cent increase in hospital admissions have sparked questions about whether the BDR is working.
Alcohol-related admissions in Darwin fell 2.5 per cent to June 30 but jumped 20 per cent in both the NT's second city Alice Springs and Katherine hospitals and by 38 per cent in Nhulunbuy.

There were also reports that it was easy for people on the BDR to "work around" and access takeaway alcohol, Opposition and Country Liberal Party deputy leader Lia Finocchiaro said.

"The BDR continues to fail to keep Territorians safe and address chronic alcoholism," she said.

"In fact, the relevant crime statistics and hospital admission figures both contradict the government's rhetoric that it is working.

""It completely defeats the purpose of the BDR if people who are on the register can continue to access alcohol."

Health Minister Natasha Fyles argued that the BDR is but one aspect of the Riley Review it received last year and which made more than 200 recommendations including sweeping alcohol reforms such as a floor price and in rehab to try and achieve generational change.

A progress report on the Riley Review by the Menzies School of Health Research found there were flaws in how the BDR"s success was measured in terms of rehabilitation.

Better independent data collection and evaluation of its impact on alcohol harm minimisation must occur, it said.

There are also anecdotal claims of an increase in black market or sly grog sales at inflated prices and of people moving from towns and indigenous communities to get easier access to alcohol.

"It is one measure to tackle the Northern Territory's huge problem with alcohol and the abuse, harm and anti-social behaviour that we see in our communities every day," Ms Fyles said.

She argued there was evidence of people on the BDR better complying with their parole, some had been placed on income management.


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