Foetal alcohol syndrome among Australian Aborigines

There is a major problem in the Aboriginal communities of Northern Australia. Babies are being born with foetal alcohol syndrome because 90% of women in those communities continue to drink throughout their pregnancies. So what is the Australian Hotels Association asked to do? Stop selling alcohol to pregnant Aborigines. This has to be one of the silliest ideas ever.

It’s as silly as asking a supermarket to stop selling food to 50% of Australians because they are overweight. First of all, supermarkets are in the business of selling food, just as publicans are in the business of selling alcohol. Can you imagine the uproar if supermarkets became a kind of Supernanny? Can you imagine a set of bathroom scales at each checkout for a customer to step on before being able to buy some ice cream?

Surely it’s a similar situation with the alcohol industry. Why should they be the guardians of public health when those stupid women don’t care enough or are too drunk to give a thought to their babies’ health.

The problem is a much more serious one than being merely a question of alcohol supply. Teenage girls in these communities are selling themselves for a cigarette or a drink and according to one report most teenage girls in these communities have had children.

It will take many years for the Aboriginal community to decide to be responsible for its own situation because they have been used to many handouts from the government.

I really believe that paternalism is not an effective approach for improving living conditions in the long term. Alcoholism is just one of the problems that Aborigines have to deal with. There is also the promiscuity, violence and sexual abuse which prompted the intervention by the Howard government a couple of years ago.

If the government is worried about babies being born with foetal alcohol syndrome, then perhaps they can get the cooperation of the Aborigines themselves to accept birth control, the kind that is provided by injections of Depo-Provera since it is highly unlikely that the alcoholics could remember to take a daily contraceptive pill.

This sort of contraception would have to be in the hands of the Aboriginal councils themselves or the government would again be charged with infringing on the girls’ civil liberties.

The problems in those communities are very complicated and, in my opinion, should be handled by the Aboriginal elders themselves rather than placing the responsibility on publicans.

It’s not the publican’s duty to ask a customer if she is pregnant or not. How is the publican to know if she’s pregnant or not? How can he believe her? Anyway, why can’t she ask some of her pals to buy the alcohol for her? That’s what I mean when I say it’s a silly idea.


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