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Victoria moves to decriminalise public drunkenness, but Neil Mitchell says something about the announcement is ‘dodgy’

Public drunkenness will no longer be a crime in Victoria as the Andrews Government moves to redefine alcohol abuse as a health issue.

The government’s decision was driven by calls from the Indigenous Australian community.

Aboriginal people are over-represented in public drunkenness figures, and the abolition of the offence first recommended by the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody 28 years ago.

An expert reference group has been established to determine how to appropriately deal with people found drunk in public, but the details are lacking.

Nerita Waight, CEO of Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, is on the committee.

She said she was only invited to be a part of the reference group a few hours before decriminalisation of the offence was announced last night.

The reference group hasn’t been briefed, there is no established timeline for their meeting, and the government hasn’t committed to funding health responses for those found drunk in public.

“There was no announcement around what the resourcing commitment might look like,” Ms Waight told 3AW’s Neil Mitchell.

“We would hope, along with this announcement, there is a commitment to resource whatever therapeutic response is agreed to by this expert reference group and the state.”

Neil Mitchell said something about the announcement seems off.

“This is dodgy,” the 3AW Mornings host said.

“We’ve got four people named as members of this expert reference group which is going to meet and decide how all this happens. Nerita Waight is on that committee and she was only told late last night.

“She doesn’t know when they’re going to meet, what the job is, or anything.

“What’s going on here? Why have they rushed this out without consideration or discussion?

“They’ve thrown together some committee in the middle of the night.

“We’ve asked for three ministers around this to speak to us. None of them will.

“I’m beginning to see why.”

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