The Yoorrook Justice Commission has welcomed the Victorian Government’s announcement today that the state’s public drunkenness laws will finally be abolished in November, and not replaced by new police powers to move on or arrest a person for being drunk in a public place.
The Victorian Parliament committed to repeal public drunkenness laws in 2019 following decades of advocacy by First Peoples, most recently by the family of Yorta Yorta woman Aunty Tanya Day who died in police custody in December 2017.
In its interim report released in June 2022, Yoorrook further backed calls by First Peoples organisations that have been advocating for decades for public drunkenness laws to be abolished for a public health response, led by First Peoples and appropriately resourced.
The impact of the significant delay in implementing these changes was consistently raised by witnesses throughout Yoorrook’s December hearings into the criminal justice system.
Acting Chair of the Yoorrook Justice Commission, Sue-Anne Hunter, said:
“The Yoorrook Justice Commission welcomes the long overdue abolishment of public drunkenness laws in Victoria, which was a recommendation of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody over 30 years ago.
“Yoorrook also welcomes today’s commitment by the Victorian government to rule out any additional powers for police to apprehend or move on people found drunk in public.
“Over a very long time, Aboriginal leaders, organisations and community members, many of whom have lost loved ones after they died while incarcerated, have advocated for these laws to be abolished and replaced with a public health response. It is pleasing to see progress.
“This reform is among a host of recommendations that have been made to Yoorrook by First Peoples to fix Victoria’s criminal justice system, including raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility to at least 14, and reforming bail laws.
“Abolishing public drunkenness laws is an important step – but only one step – on the road to ending the injustices faced by Victoria’s First Peoples, and building a fairer future for all Victorians.”
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