Experts have criticised the planning ahead of the lifting of NT’s alcohol ban. 

Federal government legislation - the Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory Act 2012 - lapsed over the weekend, meaning alcohol can now be in some parts of the Northern Territory for the first time in a decade. 

The commonwealth laws were one of the last remnants of a race-based intervention targeting Aboriginal Territorians. 

About 100 communities already under other NT liquor restrictions before the commonwealth law came into force in 2007 will revert to the previous controls.

Communities classified as ‘general restricted areas’ continue to have alcohol restricted, and the NT government is allowing some communities to apply to continue to stay dry for the next two years. 

The NT Government amended its own liquor laws in preparation for the federal ban ending, but the new “opt in” system has been met with significant concern.

“At best the government’s process around these significant liquor changes lacks integrity,” says the NT Council of Social Service’s chief executive Deborah Di Natale. 

The National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) said the end of the federal intervention is “consistent with the Australian government’s commitment to self-determination”.

The NIAA says it is  working with the Northern Territory government to “transition elements” of the legislation so they can be maintained. 

But the Association of Alcohol and other Drug Agencies NT says that both the federal and Northern Territory governments did not do enough planning before the laws changed. 

“While communities must lead decisions on whether or not alcohol is returned to local areas, these changes must be considered from a health equity perspective,” the association’s executive officer Peter Burnheim has told reporters

“Further resourcing is needed to facilitate community decision-making processes, undertake auditing of resources to support the minimisation of potential alcohol-related harms, and respond to the impacts of alcohol returning to these areas,” Mr Burnheim said.

“Little to no preparatory work has been done to help communities to develop effective alcohol management strategies or to provide additional resources to respond to this change.”

Indigenous author and activist Thomas Mayor says the situation shows the importance of an Indigenous voice to parliament.

“The deficiency in the way that the Northern Territory government has consulted, that can be addressed with a strong voice, to be able to say to the government ... this is how you need to consult in the future,” he said. 

Mr Mayor is a vocal advocate for the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and says the blanket federal policy was a failure.

“One of the effects was that people just moved out of community to access alcohol [and were] on the roads putting themselves and others in danger,” he said. 

“It just created more opportunities for Indigenous people to be incarcerated ... and basically was in ignorance to the real causes of alcohol problems in communities.”