From Hunting to Drinking: The Devastating Effects of Alcohol on an Australian Aboriginal Community

From Hunting to Drinking: The Devastating Effects of Alcohol on an Australian Aboriginal Community

From Hunting to Drinking: The Devastating Effects of Alcohol on an Australian Aboriginal Community

From Hunting to Drinking: The Devastating Effects of Alcohol on an Australian Aboriginal Community

Synopsis

From Hunting to Drinking reveals the devastating effects that alcohol has had over a period of 30 years on Mornington Island, off the North Queensland Coast, Australia. David McKnight explores how drinking now affects all reaches of community life and reviews the history of drinking in Australia as well as its causes and asks why the situation has been allowed to continue, exploring the vested interest that the authorities have in the sale of alcohol on the island.

Excerpt

<

In the past, the Australian Aborigines triumphed over demanding physical environments. They also survived the advent of Europeans, although they were drastically reduced in number. They now face the most demanding challenge of all, alcohol. In what follows I examine the devastating effects that alcohol has had on one Aboriginal community, Mornington Island, in the Gulf of Carpentaria, Northern Queensland (see Map 1). Mornington is now home to several distinct peoples but traditionally belonged to the Lardil. On the surface, Mornington looks splendid with its hospital, health service, kindergarten, school, administration offices, council chambers, aged people's hostel, new houses, library and church. For years it was a model community as far as politicians and bureaucrats were concerned. Yet underneath there is an appalling social tragedy.

In what follows I briefly outline some of the history that the Aborigines endured in the clash with European Australians and the government policies in Queensland. After their resistance was broken the common practice was to isolate Aborigines in settlements and missions. As was the case of Mornington Island, Aborigines from several tribes were forced to live together. Anyone who proved unruly was removed. The missionaries concentrated on the children and by and large left the older people to their own devices. The children were placed in dormitories and given a rudimentary European-style education with the emphasis on religion, although they were certainly exposed to some European secular customs and beliefs, especially those touching the self: clothing, sex and marriage were among the first things the missionaries controlled.

Over the years the cattle industry became the most important industry in the Gulf area. The Aborigines were keen to work on the cattle stations where they could learn new skills, earn money and escape from missionary control. A gap developed between the generations.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.