Police in Alice Springs are using the Liquor Act to harass Aboriginal people in a form of apartheid, a resident says.
Protesters will march against “racist laws and racist policing” in the town on Thursday, said organiser Alison Furber.
She said the Liquor Act was being heavily relied on by police in Alice Springs in order to harass indigenous people.
“We go to the supermarket to get some bread or a carton of eggs and they still want to know where we live: ‘give me your address and your phone number, are you sure you live at that address? Who’s that person next to you?’ It’s continually being harassed,” she told AAP.
The former Labor government’s Banned Drinkers Register (BDR), which was rolled back by the Country Liberals when they won the 2012 NT election, was more cost-effective than the new Alcohol Protection Order (APO) legislation, said march organisert Barbara Shaw.
Since December the APO law has seen police patrolling licensed venues and stopping and searching anyone they reasonably believe to be in breach of an order.
The orders prevent people, who while drinking have committed an offence that carries a minimum sentence of six months’ imprisonment, from buying, possessing or drinking alcohol for three to 12 months.
Ms Shaw said the BDR should be reinstated.
“We’ve been waiting for more than two years to get our Alcohol Management Plan – initiated by our community for the community – approved by the government, a clear example of the government not listening to the people,” she said in a statement on Tuesday.
“It’s purely apartheid,” Ms Furber said.
She said APOs made Aboriginal people feel “less human”.
“We feel like we are below the white people; they’re making us feel like we are worthless,” she said.
She said she didn’t know how many people would attend Thursday’s rally.
Last week Chief Minister Adam Giles said there were 213 people in Alice Springs who had been issued an APO, more than the 206 in Darwin and Palmerston combined, or a rate of about five and a half times more.
But a police presence outside bottle shops isn’t necessarily a bad thing, said Mark O’Reilly, principal legal officer for the Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service.
“There is a really big problem with alcohol and it’s linked to violence and criminal behaviour in Alice Springs,” he said.
But the APO legislation is problematic, he said.
“They’re telling people who are alcohol-dependent that they’re not allowed to drink, and many people are being charged with breaching APOs and being brought to court for what is essentially a health problem,” Mr O’Reilly said.
“It’s the police’s job to enforce the law; I think it’s a bad law.”