Sobering Thoughts: Public Drunkenness Reform in Victoria

Sobering Thoughts: Public Drunkenness Reform in Victoria

Almost 30 years ago, the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody recommended the abolition of public drunkenness as an offence. A subsequent inquiry in Victoria in 2001 also recommended decriminalisation. So, why have successive governments failed to act?

The Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service estimates about a quarter of the people arrested for public drunkenness each day are Aboriginal, even though just 0.8 per cent of Victoria's population is Indigenous.

Following the death in police custody of Yorta Yorta woman Tanya Day in April 2017, there’s been a renewed and energetic campaign for decriminalisation led by her family. In this conversation, our panellists discuss the reasons for the disastrous long-standing impasse on the issue and share their thoughts on the momentum behind the new push for reform.


Portrait of Apryl Watson

Apryl Watson

Apryl Watson is a proud Yorta Yorta, Wemba Wemba and Barapa Barapa woman. She is the daughter of Tanya Day – a proud Yorta Yorta grandmother who died in custody in 2017.

Portrait of Nayuka Gorrie

Nayuka Gorrie

 Nayuka Gorrie is a Kurnai/Gunai, Gunditjmara, Wiradjuri, and Yorta Yorta writer. Gorrie’s work explores black, queer and feminist politics. They wrote and performed in season three of Black Comedy. In 2018 they were named as a Wheeler Centre Next Chapter recipient, and are currently working on a book of essays.

Portrait of Shahleena Musk

Shahleena Musk

Shahleena Musk joined the Human Rights Law Centre team in February 2017, working in the Indigenous Rights Unit. She is an Aboriginal lawyer descended from the Larrakia people of Darwin. She was the first Aboriginal person to graduate from the then Northern Territory University (now Charles Darwin University) and to be admitted to the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory. 

Shahleena worked as a Crown Prosecutor for the Director of Public Prosecutions in both the Northern Territory (1998–2001) and Western Australia (2006–7). For over a decade she worked with the Aboriginal Legal Services in WA and the Top End of the NT, including roles as a criminal solicitor, youth lawyer, Practice Manager and Deputy Manager.

Portrait of Eddie Cubillo

Eddie Cubillo

Eddie Cubillo is an Aboriginal man with strong family links throughout the Northern Territory. His mother is of Larrakia/Wadjigan descent, and his father is Central Arrente. Eddie’s family has experienced the intergenerational effects of the policy of forced removal of children of mixed descent from their family and country.