Bourke bans the booze

08 Dec, 2008 09:46 AM

A NSW country town that is drowning in broken glass, will have the State's most draconian liquor laws when takeaway sales of bottled beer are banned.

Liquor and Gaming director Albert Gardner said it was the first time a town-wide ban on retail beer sales had been imposed in NSW.

Tough new powers of the Liquor Act will be used to try to cut Bourke's crime rate and rid its streets and playgrounds of broken glass.

Mr Gardner has flagged a town-wide ban on takeaway sales of bottled beer and alcopops as well as other measures to tackle alcohol-related problems in the western community.

Crime statistics have consistently put Bourke among the worst places in the state for assault, sexual assault and vandalism.

After two visits to Bourke, and with a third planned next week, Mr Gardner said he was shocked when he saw the amount of broken glass on the ground.

"I have never seen anything like it," he said.

"It's tragic. It's not like our kids here where they can roll around in the grass. You roll around in the grass there and you end up in a hospital with 1000 stitches."

Mr Gardner proposes to use new powers granted to him under the Liquor Act to:

  • Ban takeaway sales of fortified wines such as sherry;
  • Force the town's three pubs and one club to serve only low-alcohol beer and wine between 10am and 2pm;
  • and
  • Restrict alcohol sales to containers of two litres or less.

It would still be possible to take away canned drinks. The new rules would also apply to the bottle shop and supermarket.

Mr Gardner's plan for a drier Bourke comes after local police pleaded for strong action.

In a submission, police said most alcohol-related incidents they attended were in homes, streets or parks.

Mr Gardner said it was clear people wanted change.

"I am calling for input from the licensed venues and the general community about the merits of this plan and any other strategies that might help to make Bourke a safer and better place to live," he said.

"I will carefully consider every submission before making a final decision."

Bourke Alcohol Working Group chairman Alistair Ferguson, who also heads the Bourke Aboriginal Community Working Party, said the alcohol problem had been exacerbated by drought and a lack of jobs.

Date: Newest first | Oldest first


9/12/2008 10:40:39 PM

Mr Gardner has had only two short visits to Bourke, and therefore has no real grasp on the lives of the people of Bourke. My two small children have played frequently in Main Park in Bourke, they are yet to need a single stitch from any type of injury there. "Mr Gardner said he was shocked when he saw the amount of broken glass on the ground." This comment is being related to a photograph of Mr Gardner and Supt. Williams, which is being used in the press. This photograph actually shows a vacant block of land between the houses of two families in Bourke who are amongst the repeat offenders, not a street in Bourke, as implied in the press. This photograph is not even close to a true representation of what Bourke is truly like. A walk down the street of Bourke, is like walking down the street of any other country town, very tidy, with very friendly residents. As for having spoken to the local towns people... Bourke has a population of approx 2400 (2006 census, ABS). Of this population, over 600 people have signed a petition in objection to the proposed changes. This petition has been available for the public to sign for only 48 hours!!! Another objection I have to the submission made by the NSW Police Service to Liquor & Gaming, is the fact that although names and addresses were supposed to be blanked out, they were not. It appears that a substantial proportion of violence and crimes are committed by a very small percentage of habitual offenders. Throughout this 300 page submission, there were very few arrests made in the past three years. If, perhaps, the police made arrests, the troublemakers of Bourke may learn to behave and act in a proper manner when they drink!!! The proposed changes will only punish the majority of citizens who are responsible drinkers, for the actions of a minority of habitual criminals. I strongly object to the proposed changes. Is it not my right as an Australian citizen, to purchase the same LEGAL products as every other citizen across the country??
Bourke citizen
10/12/2008 8:57:50 AM

“What a joke” is all you can say about this ridiculous ban! You can ask any hard working citizen in Bourke what they think of this town and they will soon tell you what a great town it really is. We have already been kicked in the guts with drought and the Government buying out substantial properties for national parks. We are already down to one overpriced grocery store that supplies expired and rotten food, making people shop out of town, why now also force us to take our alcohol sales out of town and ruin further businesses??? We should be trying to boost our local businesses, not destroy them even further! Why punish an entire community when there is only a minority ruining the town’s reputation. The Government and police could be identifying the trouble makers and putting the ban on them, but that would then be considered racist and against equal rights! Where are our rights?? I just want to say congratulations Mr. Gardner: you have just put another nail in Bourke’s coffin. Sincerely, Upset Bourke local.
New Bourke family
10/12/2008 2:41:58 PM

My family and I have recently relocated to Bourke as his home town. We have small children that play in the local parks and we regularly run along streets within the town. We have had no problems to date. I am yet to see the "broken glass" that has been mentioned Mr Gardener and very much doubt your ability to accurately describe the community of Bourke after 2 short visits. Come and stay a week or 2, meet the locals on common ground and what the hell, why not come and have a beer at the local watering hole!!! And as for submissions from the local police, you are again sourcing your information from Police that don’t in fact even have an interest in the long term rejuvenation of the town. Please note that 90% of police posted in areas such as Bourke will openly tell you they are here for the "browny points" just so they can move onto to their preferred postings. Therefore their contribution to issues such as alcohol are somewhat regimented and their intent questionable. Instead of ensuring the community continues to SUFFER why not try and put some thought into contributing to the already evident efforts of the community itself by providing funding for programs for our kids and families so the traditional cultures of this country can continue. Why not spend some money on a recycling plant for the town if the glass content is so high... Get your head out of the sand Mr Gardiner and try getting real!
11/12/2008 6:17:14 AM

When are people in our country going to be made to take responsibility for their own actions? I have no problem with having restrictions on opening hours for hotels and clubs, however if there is to be a limit it should be placed Australia wide, certainly Bourke should not be singled out for these laws. Having said that, the planned ban is just a ridiculous 'cop out' for authorities. The amount of domestic violence is not going to stop because, there will still be drugs available and because people will find a way to obtain alcohol from other places to bring to town. The offenders need to be dealt with severely instead of punishing the innocent for the sake of the guilty. It is time to make these people take responsibility for their actions instead of making excuses for them I would certainly like to see our town free of crime and domestic violence, however I don't see that this ban will acheive the required result.
11/12/2008 8:48:19 AM

As mentioned by others, residents of Bourke live in a town that is already suffering. Local businesses are struggling to keep their doors open as it is, now Mr Gardner wants to take a bit more way from them. I find it funny that Mr Gardner thinks he has all the answers and that not selling bottled beer or fortified wine is going to solve all our problems. Similar bans were imposed on Alice Springs with the view that it would reduce the number of intoxicated people and hence domestic violence etc. From talking to residents of Alice Springs, the end result was that the unemployed spent more money on alcohol (to obtain the same amount) and less on feeding their families. Good move. I also resent the fact that the Director of Liquor and Gaming thinks he has the right to swan into Bourke and portray our town in a light that is not only negative, but also entirely incorrect. From what I read, we will still be able to buy bottles of spirits - LUCKY! because we will all need to be drowning our sorrows, commiserating about the state of our once beloved town and the freedom that has been taken away from us.
11/12/2008 10:01:51 AM

Until one law applies to us all nothing will ever be fair! It is against the law to drink in the street so who are the culprits then? Wake up Australia before it is too late!
Nicole Brown
11/12/2008 10:56:18 AM

I am moved to express my concerns about the repercussions to the whole Bourke community in allowing itself to be portrayed according to the behaviours of an unfortunate, costly and destructive few. As a psychologist I am well aware of the complex issues underlying alcohol abuse, violence and other crime. I am also aware, however, that despite funding for various projects and programs across varied services to address the problems of alcohol and violence, so many of these positions continue to be vacant. These program vacancies are further compounded by vacancies across a range of general health and social services. Experienced and interested professionals are needed to work with community members if programs and services are to make any difference. So many of the services supporting Bourke rely on 'blow-ins' who, in the majority of cases, receive no benefits over and above their city counterparts. Attracting the right people is the great challenge. Such individuals are highly unlikely to commit themselves, let alone their families, to live in the Bourke described by Mr Albert Gardner. No one can deny that alcohol and violence are issues in our community, but these alone should not define our community. The statistics continually placing Bourke in the top spot for crime, assault and domestic violence give the impression that every citizen and indeed visitor is at risk of harm on the street when this is far from the case. What these statistics fail to show is that essentially the majority of police resources are used on crimes perpetrated by a minority of the population who are repeat offenders. In spite of the blows dealt by the drought and rural downturn, the Bourke community has shown great spirit, social connection and sheer doggedness to be proud of. Bourke deserves to have these qualities portrayed. We are fed up with far-away politicians, bureaucrats and the metropolitan 'city-centric' media who are all too willing to shine only a negative light in looking down on the bush. As a publication based on and supposed to portray 'real' rural life, I would encourage The Land to counter this story with more of the real stories of Bourke and the people who proudly call it home.
Another angry local
11/12/2008 12:49:25 PM

I feel that people who do not live in rural towns have no idea about the community and therefore should'nt have the right to change it. I was born and bred here and love it, if the so called courts would actually book the people that the police bring to justice things may get better. Why should everyone concerned be disadvantaged for the sake of a minority of offenders? This town is already on its knees it doesn't need another kick in the guts by the goverment, at the rate things are going there will be no one left in this great town. Why don't the police do their job and actually arrest people and make the charges stick! Mr Gardner wouldn't like it if someone took his liberties away. Who does he think he is? God!!
11/12/2008 1:02:22 PM

It appears Mr Gardener you are full of ideas and NO common sense. Be a man Mr Gardner not a mouthpiece - come an live here a while and see what Bourke is realy like. Being a fifth generation Bourkeite with not a single conviction and whose father fought a war for our freedom now to be treated as a criminal is disgusting. Part of the problem is unemployment and you want to cause more people to shop out of town so our shops can close and create more unemployment. don't sit on your brains Mr Gardener - get out and see what is going on. Do you think maybe if the police were given some more assistance on the illegal drugs that enter the town some of the violence and disruptive behaviour would subside? It is a known fact that drugs and grog don't mix. Why punnish the whole town for the sake of a few idiots? After all beer in a bottle is legal not like coke, ice and weed to mention just a few. Yes there is a lot of broken glass about down the western end so are you going to ban soft drinks in glass, Jam jars, pickles, and hot sauce as well? This is a breach of civil rights.
11/12/2008 2:00:08 PM

How pathetic. How can a person who visited bourke once tell us how to live our lives. Why are we getting blamed for others actions. The police need to work harder to find out who is doing the crime rather than punishing everyone else for things they cannot help, we as citizens dont have the power to stop crime and that is not our job it is the police's. Mr Gardner for the matters of assault, sexual assault and vandalism, alcohol isn't the only probelm but so are drugs, people who have lived here for years know how bad the drug problem is and personally i think more things should be done about this.
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