Victoria Legal Aid

Supporting a health-based response to public intoxication

We strongly welcome the Victorian Government's announcement that no additional coercive powers will be introduced when public intoxication is decriminalised.

Tuesday 17 January 2023 3:43am

We strongly support and endorse the Victorian Government’s decision to implement a health-based based response to public intoxication.

The decriminalisation of public intoxication will take effect from November this year, following strong advocacy from Aboriginal community-controlled organisations and the family of Yorta Yorta woman Tanya Day.

The Attorney-General has confirmed that the Government will not introduce additional coercive powersExternal Link to respond to public intoxication once it is decriminalised.

‘This welcome decision sets the foundation for a genuine health-based response to public intoxication, which should be responded to as a health issue, not as a crime or in the justice system,’ said Alice Cashen, Acting Executive Director, Criminal Law at Victoria Legal Aid.

‘The need for this change is clear. Since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1989, multiple inquiries and investigations have recommended the repeal of criminal offences of public intoxication.’

‘From our practice experience across the state of Victoria, we know the criminalisation of public intoxication has had a direct and harmful effect on First Nations peoples in Victoria.’

‘Moving to a health-based response will help to reduce the risk of deaths in custody and the disproportionate impact of this offence on First Nations peoples and other marginalised communities,’ said Alice.

We acknowledge the leadership of Ms Day’s family in advocating for this change, following the passing of Aunty Tanya in December 2017.

Self-determination and working with First Nations organisations and communities must be at the centre of the health response’s design.

We look forward to the next stage of developing these reforms. We will continue to work with the Government, and our partners at the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service and Human Rights Law Centre on the design of the new system to commence in November.

More information

Read a statement from Aunty Tanya Day’s familyExternal Link , the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, Human Rights Law Centre and Dhadjowa Foundation.

Read about our evidence to the Yoorrook Justice Commission on the need for criminal justice system transformation.

Reviewed 17 January 2023