In a turbulent meeting on April 20, City of Yarra councillors voted to reinstate a ban on public drinking, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The motion was passed by a coalition of Labor councillors and independents, five votes to four. The votes against were from the Socialist Party councillor and three Greens.
It overturned a March decision to lift the drinking ban during daylight hours.
The ban, known as Local Law 8, was passed in October and implemented in December.
At the March council meeting, some councillors were shocked to hear the local Indigenous community that used to gather in Smith Street (known as “the parkies”) had been dispersed because of the new law.
Many who used to gather in Smith Street had since shifted to their homes, public housing estates and Lennox Street, Richmond — which is reputed to be the centre of Melbourne’s heroin trade. As a result, some had become addicted to drugs as well as alcohol.
The parkies’ dispersal has made it difficult to contact people for legal or health appointments and for community activities.
A group at the April 20 meeting made known their feelings about the racist nature of the ban. They pointed out the hypocrisy: public drinking is banned only if the alcohol isn’t consumed at a commercial establishment.
Across the road from the council meeting, people were drinking on the footpath, but they wouldn’t be forced to move on or tip out their drinks out because they were at a pub’s outdoor tables.
Local Law 8 will do nothing about alcohol-fuelled violence, because most of that booze has already been consumed in commercial premises.
Protest organiser Sharon Firebrace said protests would continue until Local Law 8 was overturned.