The Victorian Government’s commitment to decriminalise public drunkenness and develop and adopt an alternative, health-based response will save lives and give vulnerable people pathways to lead healthy and fulfilling lives, says Jesuit Social Services.

“We are extremely pleased to see the Victorian Government recognise that public drunkenness laws like those which have been in place in Victoria disproportionately impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” says Jesuit Social Services Acting CEO Sally Parnell.

“The abolition of the offence of public drunkenness was a key recommendation of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody more than 28 years ago. Today’s announcement is a victory for those who have advocated tirelessly for this reform for decades.

“Drunkenness is a health issue, not a criminal issue, and finally it will be recognised and responded to as such.”

The Victorian Government says its new health-based model will promote therapeutic and culturally safe pathways to assist alcohol-affected people in public places, who may be facing other challenges including homelessness, mental illness, family violence and substance abuse problems.

“This is crucial because it acknowledges that a multi-layered approach is needed to support people to address not only their alcohol use, but the other significant challenges in their lives which may be linked to, or exacerbate, drinking,” says Ms Parnell.

The Victorian Government announced it will establish an Expert Reference Group, to provide advice about the decriminalisation and the development of the health-based response.

“This Expert Reference Group includes representatives from Aboriginal Controlled Community Organisations. These are excellent appointments who will provide advice and represent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, to ensure that these reforms lead to the best possible outcomes for vulnerable people.”

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