Community alcohol restrictions
If you are planning to travel through Far North Queensland and Cape York you need to know about alcohol restrictions.
Alcohol restrictions are in place in 19 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Queensland. These restrictions ban or limit the amount and type of alcohol you can take into a community. In some communities, alcohol is completely banned.
The maximum amount of alcohol a person is permitted to carry within the restricted area is commonly known as an alcohol 'carriage limit'. Some restricted areas have a carriage limit of zero, which means no alcohol is permitted. Alcohol carriage limits apply not only to individuals but is the maximum amount that can be transported in a vehicle, boat or aircraft regardless of the number of passengers.
Fines and penalties
You are breaking the law if you try to go into a restricted area with an amount of alcohol that is above the set limit. If you take alcohol to the area, you risk having to pay a fine or going to jail. The maximum penalties for breaching the alcohol limit are:
- first offence - 375 penalty units ($42,693)
- second offence - 525 penalty units ($59,771) or 6 months imprisonment
- third or later offence - 750 penalty units ($85,387) or 18 months imprisonment.
Penalties are in place to deter sly grogging—selling alcohol (often at very high prices) without a licence. Sly grog is a major cause of harm, violence, poor health and poverty in Indigenous communities.
To report incidents of sly grogging phone the confidential Sly Grog Hotline on 1800 500 815.
Some roads and public areas included in the restricted areas of Doomadgee, Lockhart River and Wujal Wujal have been declared as 'specific roads and public facilities'. A bona fide traveller exemption applies to specified roads and facilities in these 3 communities whereby someone passing through can carry more than the prescribed amount of alcohol allowed in the restricted area, provided they meet all of the following criteria:
- a reverse onus of proof applies and travellers will have to provide evidence their destination is not the restricted area. If you choose to carry alcohol on the specified roads you must be able to prove on the balance of probabilities that your final destination is not the restricted area. Your trip itinerary, valid camping permits, driver licence showing your home address is not within the restricted area and accommodation bookings in destinations outside the restricted area can all be used to demonstrate your intended destination.
- alcohol is secured in the vehicle, is not externally visible and is not removed from the vehicle while travelling on a specified road or using a specified public facility. You must not consume the alcohol while within the restricted area
- if you have more than the prescribed limit in your possession, you cannot stop within the community other than in an emergency situation, or if you are stopping at the prescribed public facilities subject to the bona fide traveller exemption.
The exemption only applies to bona fide travellers passing through Wujal Wujal, Lockhart River or Doomadgee on the following roads or while using the specified public facilities noted below:
- the Bloomfield Track (including Douglas Street and the Rossville-Bloomfield Road as they pass through the community) and the Bloomfield Crossing
- the public facilities within Wujal Wujal include the car park near the Bloomfield Falls and the car park for the Wujal Wujal Arts and Cultural Centre.
- Frenchmen's Road
- Portland Roads Road.
- the Savannah Way
- the public facilities within Doomadgee including the Doomadgee Roadhouse.
All other roads and facilities within these 3 communities are subject to the restrictions; there are no exemptions for anyone.
The bona fide traveller exemption does not apply in any other community. Alcohol carriage limits must be adhered to at all times when travelling through any alcohol restricted community on roads not listed above.
Below is a summary of actions police can take in relation to the Liquor Act 1992 and alcohol management plans in Indigenous communities. This is a guide only and should not be used as legal document. Full details of the relevant legislation including the Liquor Act 1992 should be consulted when necessary.
- stop and search any vehicle in or coming into a restricted area
- take all alcohol where alcohol restrictions are being breached
- seize a vehicle (including a car, boat or plane) used to bring alcohol into a restricted area or dry place
- take a vehicle if they believe it is necessary to stop the vehicle being used again to break alcohol laws
- search a person without a warrant if they suspect they are carrying alcohol
- enter and search a house without a warrant if they suspect there is alcohol in the house
- stop and search a vehicle, animal or a vehicle pulled by an animal that is under the control of a person attempting to enter a restricted area with alcohol.
For further details of police powers, contact 13 QGOV (13 74 68).