Listening to what Indigenous people in remote communities say about alcohol restrictions and cannabis use: “Good thing that the alcohol’s gone, but the gunja has kept going”

Alan R Clough, Cape York Cannabis Project Team
Med J Aust 2012; 197 (5): . || doi: 10.5694/mja12.10343
Published online: 3 September 2012

To the Editor: In Cape York Indigenous communities, alcohol restrictions started in 2002–2003, with local prohibition in some communities since 2008.1 These restrictions may have halved alcohol-related injuries,1 a historically important change. However, residents of Cape York Indigenous communities suggest that there has been an accompanying rise in cannabis use over this period (Box 1). During consultations in 2011 for Minister Macklin’s controversial Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory Act 2012, concerns about cannabis use were also raised by Northern Territory Aboriginal people.2 While the Northern Territory Emergency Response2 (NTER) promised stronger alcohol restrictions, the concerns of Aboriginal people about cannabis use in their communities have been ignored.

  • Alan R Clough
  • Cape York Cannabis Project Team

  • School of Public Health, Tropical Medicine and Rehabilitation Sciences, James Cook University, Cairns, QLD.



The Cape York Cannabis Project Team includes Susan Jacups, Jan Robertson, Bernadette Rogerson and Veronica Graham. These individuals are co-authors of the letter. We wish to thank shire councils and community organisations that support the research, and the entire Cape York Cannabis Project Team for data collection, comments on the letter and statistical analysis. This research is supported by National Health and Medical Research Council Project Grant #601002. Ethics approval was provided by the Cairns and Hinterland Health Service District Ethics Committee and the James Cook University Human Research Ethics Committee.

Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.


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