Victoria’s public drunkenness reforms, set to decriminalise public intoxication, will prioritise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders by dedicating nine of the state’s ten new 'sobering up' centres to their exclusive use.
Non-Aboriginal Victorians will only have access to a single 20-bed facility in Collingwood. This significant shift in policy, effective from Melbourne Cup Day, aims to provide appropriate support to those in need without criminalising intoxication.
Under the new guidelines, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, who make up just 1% of the state’s population, will benefit from dedicated facilities in St Kilda and various regional locations, including Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo, Shepparton, Mildura, Swan Hill, the Latrobe Valley, and East Gippsland. These centres will offer short stays, limited to a maximum of 12 hours.
A dedicated phone line managed by the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service will also be accessible to emergency services, local government authorities, liquor licensees, and transport operators.
Minister for Mental Health, Ingrid Stitt, emphasized the significance of this shift, stating, "Simply being intoxicated in public shouldn't be a crime. And from Tuesday, it won't be."