Cherbourg elders Lillian Gray and Bevan Costello at the Cherbourg courthouse. (Photo: FILE)
Cherbourg elders Lillian Gray and Bevan Costello at the Cherbourg courthouse. (Photo: FILE)

Removal of grog restrictions would 'wreak havoc in town'

SEVEN Cherbourg residents were charged with alcohol offences as part of Operation Checkerband, while over the same weekend protesters filled Australian cities for their 'black lives matter' campaign.

The Cherbourg residents received 12 charges between them on June 6 and 7 after police received information from the community about locals bringing restricted liquor into the zoned area last weekend. and breaching the shire's restriction laws

Cherbourg elders like Bevan Costello say these alcohol restriction laws are crucial to prevent further havoc, ensuring all generations of the indigenous community are protected and 'matter'.

"If alcohol restrictions weren't in place, I think we'll end up with a lot of different issues, health issues and mental health," he said.

"There's a big percentage of young people committing suicide because of that health issue."

There have been lots of issues experienced in the Cherbourg community, including mental health. Photo: Claudia Baxter
There have been lots of issues experienced in the Cherbourg community, including mental health. Photo: Claudia Baxter

What if?

The Barambah Justice Group chairman said a lack of alcohol restrictions would also see a rise in domestic violence offences within the Cherbourg Aboriginal Shire.

"It's pretty bad as it is at the moment, but I think it would rise," he said.

"Our children would suffer too, in the colder months, kids without warm clothing and food, schooling and education would be impacted."

The removal of restrictions would also have a huge economic impact.

Many community members are unemployed, depend on government benefits and rent houses from the Cherbourg Aboriginal Shire Council.

"There's not a lot money and the families are quite big so there's a lot of pressure on the economic stuff," Mr Costello said.

"A lot of the money would be spent on not just alcohol, we've got a drug issue here as well."

The removal of alcohol restrictions would exacerbate the already present issues in Cherbourg. (Photo: FILE)
The removal of alcohol restrictions would exacerbate the already present issues in Cherbourg. (Photo: FILE)

Operation Checkerband

Operation Checkerband was enforced on June 6 and 7 by police officers from the Ipswich Tactical Crime Squad and Murgon.

Seven people were charged with some 12 charges, restricted alcohol was seized and traffic breaches were issued.

Among the resulting charges, a 27-year-old Cherbourg woman was charged with alleged possession of liquor in a restricted place, as well as drink driving.

A 43-year-old Cherbourg woman was also charged with possession of liquor in a restricted place.

Both are due to appear at Murgon Magistrates Court on July 14.

Police were aided after information was received to suggest Cherbourg residents had allegedly breached the Alcohol Management Plan by transporting restricted liquor into the zoned area.

Cherbourg residents are only permitted to have light or mid-strength beer in the community. Photo: FILE
Cherbourg residents are only permitted to have light or mid-strength beer in the community. Photo: FILE

The restrictions:

According to the Queensland Government, Cherbourg residents cannot carry any wine or spirits.

The maximum amount of alcohol a person can carry in Cherbourg is 11.25 litres, or one carton of 375ml cans, of light or mid-strength beer.

This amount is per person on foot or per vehicle, boat or aircraft regardless of the number of people in it.

The restrictions were introduced to Cherbourg for the first time during March 2009 in a bid to reduce unacceptable levels of alcohol-related harm in the community.

Cherbourg local elder and school teacher Bevan Costello at home with his grandchildren. Photo Lachie Millard
Cherbourg local elder and school teacher Bevan Costello at home with his grandchildren. Photo Lachie Millard

Potential solution:

Mr Costello said the current restrictions could be more effective.

"It's not working, people are getting whatever amount of alcohol they want in," he said.

"We are a small, tight-knit community, we live here 24/7, we know exactly how much alcohol is coming in and out in the place.

"It is being policed, but it could be tightened up more."

Mr Costello said the best way to address the restrictions was to employ some Cherbourg residents in security roles.

"They know the people, they're indigenous themselves, they live and breath the Cherbourg community here," he said.

This, Mr Costello believes, would improve the relations between the community and policing.

"They know the families, the people here, so the relationships are already there," he said.

Virus impacts:

The recent coronavirus restrictions at Cherbourg have taken the elder back to his childhood where a permit was needed to live in the community.

"When I look back at my time as a boy, when no alcohol was allowed out here, it was much better for me growing up in that environment," Mr Costello said.

He said many were 'bored' due to the strict restrictions.

"It might be better when the restrictions are better and they can go to the pub and have a drink with their meal," he said.

Local residents are urged to continue to report any information about restricted liquor to police.

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