Banning alcohol from Queensland indigenous communities has helped reduce violence but may have also led to an increase in the use of illicit drugs.
Police Commissioner Ian Stewart says anecdotal evidence from mayors in many indigenous communities that have Alcohol Management Plans (AMPs) in place shows more residents are turning to drugs, particularly cannabis and ice, brought in by opportunistic dealers.
“The reality is (ice is) attractive to the dealers because it’s hugely profitable, so they’ll be looking for people who are vulnerable – people that they can addict with this very, very deadly drug,” he told ABC radio.
Mr Stewart said he had been a staunch advocate of AMPs in the past, but acknowledged they now needed to be reviewed.
He flagged the possibility of relaxing the restrictions in some areas.
“I’ve been very strongly supportive of the AMPs because of the reduction in violence that has been noticeable in many of these communities, however I am always open to review and research that would give us a better understanding of the forces in play,” he said.
“I think there is now a question about whether those restrictions are working as intended.”
Mr Stewart said it was crucial that any legislation reflected the genuine needs of the communities involved.
“The work that we do in partnership with the communities is the critical piece,” he said.
“This is not something that we will ever enforce our way out of – there’s got to be education programs, there’s got to be options for people in terms of having work options and an economic base.”
Palm Island mayor Alf Lacey, who has been outspoken for years about alcohol restrictions, said ice was not a problem in his community but that it was only a matter of time.
“Certainly it is going to be an interesting space to watch like in every town in the state if not the country,” he told AAP.
“There’s a cause and effect where people and residents will go to other means to satisfy their needs.
“I think it’s really important that we have localised strategies because all the AMP does is put people in jail, and certainly if that’s what it does then let’s watch the ice space.”