Victoria Legal Aid

A culturally safe health-based approach to public drunkenness remains crucial

Laws to remove the offence of public drunkenness in favour of a culturally safe health-based response should take effect as soon as possible.

Tuesday 3 May 2022 4:50am

We support the removal of the offence of public drunkenness as soon as possible in favour of an appropriate and culturally safe health-based response.

‘31 years ago, the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody recommended that being drunk in public should not be a criminal offence,’ said Dan Nicholson, Executive Director Criminal Law.

‘We continue to see the need for this reform through our practice experience.’

‘We support the recommendations of the government’s expert reference group as an evidence-based way of achieving the implementation of the changes.’

‘It is important for the government to take the time to get the details right, in consultation with Aboriginal community-controlled organisations and other stakeholders and communities who are directly affected.’

‘We agree with the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service that these laws need to take effect as soon as possible,’ said Mr Nicholson.

From our practice experience across the state of Victoria, we know these laws have a direct and harmful effect on First Nations peoples in Victoria.

Repealing this offence remains a crucial step in recognising this harm and in working towards racial and social justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The recommendations for implementation made by the government’s expert reference group were developed through wide-ranging consultation and remain the best way to achieve this important reform.

‘We look forward to working with the government and our colleagues from across the sector in the next phase of implementation.’

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Reviewed 11 May 2022