Newman elders back bottle shop restrictions

Rebecca ParishNorth West Telegraph
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Martu people are being turned away after 5pm at some bottle shops in Newman, after an agreement with the town’s elders in a bid to stop alcohol-fuelled violence and antisocial behaviour.

The agreement was signed just over a month ago between Celebrations licensee Anita Grace and a handful of the region’s Martu elders, including Clive Samson.

Ms Grace said the agreement was signed after concerned locals met to discuss the issues. She said the catalyst for her was an incident out the front of her store in which a police officer was injured.

“Over the years we’ve really tried a lot of things,” Ms Grace said.

“I’ve been here 30 years and I know the elders very well. I said, ‘look guys let’s try and work together because we’re all on the same page’.

“Everyone was saying, ‘look we’re sick of people telling us what to do and we don’t have any say — we’re the elders here, we really have no say’.

“And they said that the people will respect the elders’ decisions.

“And I said, ‘well OK, let’s do this’.”

The arrangement means the sale of alcohol is restricted to Martu people for more than 20 hours each week and is confirmed, in writing, for a six-month period.

Newman Senior Sergeant Larry Miller said police had been looking for a solution to alcohol issues for a long time.

He said while police had nothing to do with the arrangement, they had seen a lot of positive signs since it was put into place.

“What we noticed is a decrease with our tasking of police to the CBD between 5 and 8pm,” Sen. Sgt Miller said.

“We spend less time there between those hours which gives us the ability to be elsewhere. There’s less anti-social behaviour.”

Ms Grace, a former Shire of East Pilbara councillor, said it was not known if the arrangement would work but it could be tweaked or stopped at any time on the elders’ say so.

“Being up this part of the world and having a liquor store or a hotel you’ve really got your work cut out for you,” she said.

“I’m not saying it’s stopped everything ... but outside my place at the moment it is so peaceful by 6pm.

“It just shows you when communities get together they can do something.”

Red Sands owner-manager Philip Meagher said his venue endorsed the agreement and while it had taken a while for everyone to get on board, the arrangement was generally now being accepted.

“A number of meetings led to the elders being strongly in favour of restricting the amount of alcohol that can be bought after 5pm,” he said. “Our observation is it is successful.”

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