Ask any local – The liquor restrictions are simply not working effectively any more – by Margaret Mackay
A new homelessness report at the outback opal mining town of Coober Pedy by the now axed Advocacy group Shelter SA advocating for a homelessness shelter has stirred up frustration within the local community.
The report continues to gain attention despite the State Government is calling for Expressions of Interest from organisations ‘capable’ of delivering reductions in homelessness across South Australia.
The report states: “One participant showed a Shelter SA team member a photo of a sub-standard property [at Coober Pedy] that had a shed built over it rather than repairing damage to the roof.”
The local community at Coober Pedy have endured the stress and frustration of many decades of bureaucratic bungling as near a dozen departments try to sort out the simple problem of itinerants from areas that do not condone alcohol, gathering in the town seeking alcohol. The conclusion is drawn locally that the various departments are hoping to keep the problem in the town to help secure more funding.
Affected community members that do not wish to be named for fear of reprisal say, the loopholes in the liquor restrictions are being exploited by itinerants from the APY Lands (or elsewhere) who have an APY Lands or a Homeland address and are registering a Coober Pedy address that allows them to readily access alcohol.
Itinerant families will move into a ‘friend’s’ home at Umoona Community or into a Housing SA rental home and they become overcrowded. The ‘friend’ can sometimes be pushed out of their own home (homeless) or itinerants may end up having to sleep out because of fighting.
Locals of all persuasions agree that if there is a housing shortage it is because most of the above ground homes have been trashed.
Itinerants that have not secured a dual address will send their ‘host’ to purchase the alcohol for them. It is the alcohol fueled parties that end up being the cause of damages to properties that is costing the taxpayer and property owners dearly to continually repair these dwellings.
It is not just damages to properties either. There is the related domestic violence that quite often involves women and under aged children.
Why was this not considered in the Shelter SA report when it was a significant consideration in all other reports and inquiries into indigenous hardship or disadvantage?
A total of 349 recommendations were made across the four inquiries. Included in report, 206 from the Layton Review, 54 from the Mullighan CISC Inquiry, 46 from the Mullighan APY Lands Inquiry, and 43 from the Debelle Inquiry.
The Umoona Community is a designated dry area, but locals say that since Housing SA has taken over control of the rentals at Umoona there is less scrutiny of who comes and goes and of course less scrutiny of the alcohol that enters into the community.
Local indigenous families say, they do not always get first option on available housing. And that itinerants (with homes elsewhere) are getting cheap housing, just so they have somewhere to sit around and drink; all paid for by welfare.
It is common knowledge at Umoona Community that having regular house inspections would help to detect overcrowding but inspections of Housing SA managed properties are no longer conducted.
Occupants can also be reluctant to ask for help to get rid of the annual infestation of vermin (cockroaches and mice) that invade their homes. Regular inspections would detect those needs and it would also detect if there were social problems that the occupant did not have control of.
“You must come and complain, we are told, but life will be hard for us if we complain”. “If Housing SA do the inspections and tell us you have too many people, the people who are not from here will not blame us when they have to leave.”
In 2013-14 the DCCP and the Liquor Commissioner both committed to take more steps, and monitor the situation. This appears not to have occurred and the failing restrictions are now impacting the broader community.
Is the Shelter SA report advocating for job funding instead of alerting the community and the Liquor Commissioner to the growing failures in Coober Pedy’s liquor restrictions?
The Shelter SA report turns a blind eye to the failures in Coober Pedy’s hard earned liquor restrictions, where an entire town is penalised, allegedly for the greater good!
The dual housing loophole in the liquor restriction that allows people from defined “prescribed lands” wanting housing when they already have housing elsewhere was identified some years ago. In the meantime Coober Pedy continues to experience property damages and violence that locals suggest is predominantly perpetrated by out-of-towners.
AND THEN 7 YEARS OF STAGNATION
COOBER PEDY TAKES FIRST STEP
At the Council meeting on 21st May 2013 a motion was passed that requests the liquor licensing commissioner to place restrictions on all takeaway liquor outlets in Coober Pedy.
The restrictions include no ID/no service for all patrons and no sale of takeaway liquor to persons from locations or towns where liquor is banned.
This is the first of many steps that Coober Pedy will take to address antisocial behaviour and alcohol related crime in our town.
Coober Pedy liquor laws working 
4 April 2014 – New liquor sales conditions in the outback town of Coober Pedy have had significant positive effect in their first six months of operation.
South Australia’s Commissioner for Liquor and Gambling, Paul White brought in new rules for take-away alcohol sales in Coober Pedy, in September last year, in an effort to curb alcohol related violence and anti-social behaviour.
Authorities have reported less public drunkenness, reduced drunken violence, and reduced hospital admissions.
Under the new rules, takeaway sales of cask wine were banned, while wine and spirits were limited to one bottle per person per day, and takeaway sales were also banned to anyone from defined “prescribed lands”.
“I’ve just conducted a review after the first six months of operation, and travelled to Coober Pedy to meet with the Umoona Community, Housing SA, South Australia Police, the Coober Pedy Hospital, the Retail, Tourism and Business Association, the Council and licensees,” Commissioner White said.
“I’m pleased all the reports I’ve received indicate that the new rules are having a marked effect on reducing alcohol related problems.
“SA Police have reported a dramatic drop in alcohol related call outs, meaning they can concentrate on other policing matters.
“The Hospital, Ambulance and Sobering Up centre are all reporting less alcohol-related presentations and improved general health.
“The local council are reporting less public drunkenness, as well as less begging and littering.
“And the rules are having a beneficial effect on children, with reports that children are attending childcare more regularly, and school age children are coming to school more rested, better nourished, and their schoolwork has even improved.
“In response to the consultation. I am making some very minor changes to the rules, mostly regarding the availability of alcohol to mining and pastoral operations.
“I don’t expect that the new rules are going to completely solve alcohol-related problems, but I am greatly heartened that there has already been such a noticeable positive effect.
“Consumer and Business Services will continue to monitor the effect of the rules in Coober Pedy, and will consult with the local community about any further changes that may be necessary.”
Coober Pedy strongly rejects Transitional Accommodation Centre
22 April 2014 An Electors Meeting in Coober Pedy has voted overwhelmingly against the construction of a Homelessness Support Service (aka Transitional Accommodation Centre) in the town. Voting was 129 against, and 8 in favour.
Mayor Steve Baines said he will be writing to the Premier, formally advising him of Council’s and the community’s clear opposition to the proposed centre.
“I have spoken to the Member for Giles, Eddie Hughes, and advised him of the results of the meeting of electors”, Mayor Baines said. “I have also asked Eddie to facilitate a meeting with the Minister for Housing, Zoe Bettison, as soon as possible.
“Council and the electors are not opposed to helping those people in our community that are genuinely homeless. We have however been seeking information from the state since March last year on what they are proposing to be built and what the model will look like.”
“Unfortunately our best endeavours have been unsuccessful in obtaining any information. The overwhelming majority of those electors in attendance are opposed to the construction of this proposed facility and are sceptical about why the government continues to refuse to release information on what is proposed.”
Mayor Baines apologised to the meeting on behalf of Council for the lack of information that was available to enable people to make an informed decision on this subject.
“I can advise that Council has formally resolved to oppose the construction of a Homelessness Centre in Coober Pedy and has formally advised Minister Piccolo and Housing SA of our position”, he told the Electors.
The meeting was held pursuant to section 93 of the Local Government Act 1999 and arose from a Council resolution on September 17th, 2013, that a meeting of Electors be held to decide on the motion “Does the community support the construction of a Homelessness Support Service (aka Transitional Accommodation Centre) in Coober Pedy?”
Minister for Human Services: Michelle Lensink https://www.premier.sa.gov.au/the-team/michelle-lensink-mlc Housing SA https://www.housing.sa.gov.au/about-us/our-board Shelter SA https//:www.sheltersa.asn.au