The following post is based on copy supplied by someone who has run a business on Smith St since 1994. I sought permission to publish it because it provides a much needed counterpoint to the bleeding heart leftie view that street drinkers are special citizens who are above the law and who cannot be held accountable for their actions. I believe the law should apply equally to everyone. For a comprehensive background to the drinking on Smith St issue, see this video produced by YarraReporter.

From 1988 until mid 2002 the area became a heroin market. This is due to its strategic position. It services the Bundoora tram link and is in convenient proximity to the Fitzroy and Collingwood public housing estates. After much unnecessary work the traders and residents of the area were able to relocate much of this market to Victoria St in Richmond, but some of it remained.

The area abounding the Safeway supermarket became a sign post for people who needed to score. The signposts were hardened criminals who directed the trade with the support of a bottle of port. Their menacing manner and intimidating behaviour allowed them to control the public space. We no longer saw old men and women in the street and families deserted our shopping strip.

During this time I became involved with The City of Yarra and other stake holders in discussions regarding the abuse of alcohol. I maintained my position that the area was a commercial precinct and should be made safe for our community to utilise as such.

Unfortunately the health lobby group, who are very influential in Yarra, identified the issue as an indigenous issue and refused to acknowledge the connection between alcohol abuse and criminality – in particular a trade in hard drugs.

These discussions led to identifying the need for an outreach worker to deal with the alcohol issues that are still prevalent within the indigenous community. Although funding was approved the position never eventuated.

About two years later, after the City of Yarra was approached by the office of the Small Business Commissioner, the council set up the Street Peoples Committee. Traders were represented at this committee but found they were overwhelmed by the health lobby who are paid to attend these talk fests whilst the people representing the interests of the shopping precinct were not.

Since the council was not serious about improving the situation the people became disillusioned by the futility of the exercise. From the discussions carried out by the Street Peoples Committee, alcohol abuse within the indigenous community was identified as a serious problem that our community needed to address.  The committee proposed more support for alcohol rehabilitation, a sobriety bus and the establishment of an Indigenous, Community Cultural Centre.

After two more years of lobbying, the local state member of parliament agreed to the funding of a cultural centre on the proviso that The City of Yarra introduce a drinking ban on alcohol in public spaces. Despite the Minister’s request, the City of Yarra and Aboriginal Services Victoria did not have a written business plan for the Cultural Centre.

The City of Yarra introduced a ban on public drinking 24/7 on 1 December 2009. Since the ban the police have attended on three occasions instead of every day, the ambulance has been here once instead of three times a week, I see old men and women occupying the public areas, I see people sitting down having their lunches in peace and quiet on benches that were occupied by violent drunks, I see families with children.

I am no longer having violent abuse hurled at me, my laneway does not smell like a third world toilet and my staff feel safe at work. I no longer see groups of criminals consorting on the street and I have not seen a used syringe for at least six months.

It has taken ten years to achieve this position of normality in Smith street at a terrible cost to our community (at least half of the drinkers who occupied the area are dead). During this time many small businesses have gone bankrupt and left the area. Police time and effort, which could be better utilised in addressing serious criminal activity, was wasted on managing antisocial behaviour instead of stamping it out.

Why would any sane person want to reintroduce public drinking to Smith St? Do they have a vested interest in perpetuating criminality?

allowing street drinking on Smith St is perpetuating criminality

4 thoughts on “allowing street drinking on Smith St is perpetuating criminality

  • 8 April 2010 at 10:19 am

    I agree entirely. As a Collingwood resident, I have noticed a marked improvement in Smith St since the drinking ban. I do feel safer walking along Smith St and I too have noticed that the public areas are now free for everyone to use, rather than being full of people drinking.

    I sincerely hope that the ban remains. It is great to be able to do your shopping during the day along Smith St and not feel threatened or intimidated.

  • 8 April 2010 at 6:41 pm

    I don’t see any need for allowing street drinking during the day but if you make the area too family friendly you run the risk of having Fitzroy turn into the new St. Kilda.

    St. Kilda used to have a soul now it’s just yuppie spoilt brat central. I’m not saying public drinking is the sole reason but it does give a place a bit of character. I’d say rather a hardline stance needs to be taken on criminals. It’s not like it’s hard to catch drug dealers in the act.

    Public intoxication with public drinking permitted is still illegal isn’t it?

  • 29 December 2011 at 2:52 pm

    The Yarra City Council had a motion put up by Antony Main just prior to Christmas to remove Local Law Eight all together. A small group of traders from Smith Street and one from Bridge road attended that meeting. Fortunately as the Spartans at Thermopoly we have been able to hold the pass. The Socialists wanted the law completely removedand the Greens wanted to allow daytime public drinking because they could not agree the law stands as it is. This nonsense is based upon a second report on the impact of public drinking which found that very little had changed exept that some of the indigenous group who had occupyied Smith Street had migrated to Victoria Street and were now heroin addicts. The report did not obtain statistics from the police of before the law and after the law. Smith street has become a place of serinity since the law was introduced yet none of the perminent business owner were interveiwed for the second report. Please can you help send the army from Athens to help us worn out Spartans.

    • 29 December 2011 at 2:56 pm

      Smith St has become much safer and more comfortable day and night since Local Law Eight came into effect. People don’t have the right to threaten, intimidate and interfere with others on the street, and being drunk is no excuse. This is not about ethnicity or poverty but about the responsibility we have to behave ethically and to share public space without harming others.


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