Alcohol management in Indigenous north Australia: Policies and responses (2016-2020)

Project Details

Alcohol is a major cause of social, legal and health concerns for Indigenous Australians. This has led to significant political involvement in the regulation of alcohol in communities where Australian Indigenous people live. Alcohol management plans have most recently been used as a central device for reducing alcohol-related harms, particularly in remote areas. Using mixed methods, this project aims to develop knowledge partnerships with Indigenous communities in three regions across northern Australia to build on understandings of  how to respond  to the harms of alcohol misuse more effectively, ensuring that alcohol is managed in ways that are relevant and useful to communities in a wide range of contexts.

The study aims to investigate the effectiveness of AMPs and other strategies for alcohol regulation and management in a range in northern Australian Indigenous communities. It will address the following key questions:

  • What are the social, political, economic and regulatory contexts that frame alcohol management in northern Australia?
  • What are the particular factors in different Indigenous communities that impact on the regulation of supply  and consumption?
  • How much control do Indigenous people and communities have over alcohol   management?
  • What are the key elements of effective alcohol management? Does this  vary  in  different  community contexts (Indigenous/non-Indigenous, remote/town, differences in alcohol availability) over    time?
  • How do different strategies impact on demand, supply and harm   reduction?

This research involves an innovative, interdisciplinary methodology aimed at understanding how alcohol restrictions, whether developed by communities or imposed by governments, are implemented and managed by communities. Much of the research undertaken in this area has failed to address the complex arrangements of policy, geography, history, criminal justice, social and biomedical contexts, and how they intertwine and effect harmful alcohol consumption in Indigenous contexts. Through the use of mixed-methods, framed by assemblage theory, this study will combine ethnographic research and descriptive epidemiological analyses to provide detailed understandings of the problems and advantages of existing responses. Qualitative research conducted at a community level is vital to develop effective strategies of alcohol management, enhancing their potential as vehicles for: (a) pathways for community participation in the design, implementation and evaluation of strategies; and (b) building the capacity of communities to establish specific goals to limit the harms caused by alcohol consumption.  The  quantitative analyses will provide a detailed understanding of alcohol use, supply and associated problems and responses. These two arms of the study aim to enable us to map past efforts in alcohol control, local community involvement and the factors that contributed to their effects.


Professor Marcia Langton

Dr Kristen Smith  Professor John Mathews

Associate Professor Richard Chenhall

Shane Bawden

Mark Rogers

Edna O’Malley

Margaret Moore

Jessica Webster



Central Australian Aboriginal Congress

Gawooleng Yawoodeng Aboriginal Corp

Wunan Corporation

Kununurra Waringarri Aboriginal Corporation

Ord Valley Aboriginal Health Service

MG Corporation

Binarri-binyja Yarrawoo

Ngnowar-Aerwah Aboriginal Corporation


Australian Research Council Discovery Project (DP160103192)

Research Outputs

Smith, K. Langton, M., Chenhall, R., Smith, P., and Bawden, S. 2019. The Alcohol Management Plan at Pormpuraaw, Queensland, Australia: An ethnographic community-based study. Canberra: Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education.

Langton, M. & Smith, K. 2017, Dealing with the harmful impacts of alcohol: more effective policies urgently required, 14th National Rural Health Conference, Cairns Convention Centre, 26 – 29 April, 2017.

Langton, M., Smith, K., Bawden, S. 2018, Shifting the problem? Local versus regional approaches to alcohol management by Indigenous communities, The 5th National Indigenous Drug and Alcohol Conference, Adelaide Convention Centre, Adelaide, 7 November - 9 November.

Langton, M., Smith, K. 2017, A regional approach to Alcohol Management in Northern Australia: Mobility, supply chains and community control, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) National Indigenous Research Conference 2017: Impact, Engagement & Transformation, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, 21 – 23 March 2017.

Langton, M., Smith, K., Chenhall, R., 2016. Indigenous Narratives about alcohol impacts and sobriety, The Lowitja Institute International Indigenous Health and Wellbeing Conference, Melbourne Conference Centre, Australia, 8-10 November.