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Darwin bishop points finger at alcohol as cause of 'black death'

Bishop Ted Collins of Darwin has blamed drug and alcohol abuse for the escalating murder rate among Aborigines in the Northern Territory.

Lawyers claimed on 26 September that while Aborigines were being given tougher sentences, Aboriginal men still make up the vast majority of killers in the Northern Territory and most of the victims are Aboriginal women.

Aborigines represent 24 per cent of the Northern Territory's population, but 13 of the 15 homicide victims in the territory this year have been Aborigines killed by Aborigines. Seven of the Aboriginal victims were women.

The lawyers also claimed that the figures, obtained from Northern Territory police, show only those cases where charges have been laid and do not reveal the full extent of intra-Aboriginal homicide.

"There is a lot of killing, it's terrible,' Bishop Collins said. "This is because of alcoholism, and now also marijuana. Sometimes killers are under the influence of both drugs.

"Aboriginal communities are being exploited by both whites and Aborigines, who are supplying alcohol and marijuana to them."

Bishop Collins said that there were also more suicides among young Aboriginal men, usually related to marijuana.

He said the Church had education programs for Aboriginal people to help them overcome drug and alcohol problems.

The community council at Santa Teresa Mission, south of Alice Springs, had banned alcohol from mission land and this had helped.

A joint meeting of Church agencies in the diocese on 30 September decided that drug and alcohol education should come under the auspices of Centacare.

"Maybe Centacare, with its greater clout, will be able to get some more government money for our programs," Bishop Collins said.

Catholic Leader

8 Oct 2002