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What can communities do?

Every community has its own priorities, and also its own strengths and barriers to dealing with alcohol and other drug issues. Many communities have been successful in reducing the harms from alcohol and drug use. Some of the strategies used to do this include:

Below are some examples of how these strategies can be used and the steps that different communities have taken to address alcohol and other drugs issues.

Reducing the demand for alcohol and other drugs

Alcohol and other drugs are used by people for different reasons, including to:

It is possible to reduce the demand for alcohol and other drugs by providing people with opportunities:

Pormpur Paanthu Aboriginal Corporation community event

Pormpur Paanthu Aboriginal Corporation community event, photo: Christine Howes

Keeping communities and families strong helps to protect young people from the harms of alcohol or drug use. Successful and lasting community action begins with finding out what people in the community want and getting support from leaders. Working in partnership with organisations and community groups, such as Elders, community councils, schools, sport and recreation centres, health centres, and family support agencies will greatly increase the effectiveness of addressing alcohol and drug use in the larger community.

Examples of programs that have been successful in reducing the demand for alcohol and drugs in their communities include:

The Makin' Tracks program in South Australia is also an example of a program that works with organisations and community members to address and prevent harms from alcohol and other drug use. A mobile team visits communities and helps to design a strategy that best suit the needs of the community.

For other ideas on how to foster beneficial partnerships between community groups and research to develop evidence based programs see the webinar: A practical guide to community-based programs for reducing alcohol harm.


Community projects usually need some source of funding to support their activities. Sometimes it is helpful to seek a partnership with a local agency if you are just starting out. There is a range of funding sources available to support community projects.

The Federal Government’s Indigenous Advancement Strategy has funding available through a Community-led grants process that enables Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, communities and service providers to apply for funding that addresses an emerging need or opportunity. Applications can be made at any time.

Click here for more information on Community-led grants.

The National Centre for Education and Training on Addiciton (NCETA) have created an online toolbox to help organisations and individuals apply for funding, called FundAssist. This resource guides people through the application process and identifies possible funding sources for groups and communities working in the area of alcohol and other drugs.

Click here to go to the FundAssist website.

The Knowledge Centre also has a list of funding opportunities.

Local Drug Action Program (LDAT)

The Local Drug Action Program run by the Alcohol and Drug Foundation (ADF) helps to provide a framework to support community members who are concerned about the harmful effects alcohol and other drug use in their local area and want to do something about it. The program provides a platform and resources to support communities develop and deliver evidence-based locally designed projects that are relevant to the particular issues in their area. By working together, community members can strengthen factors that help protect against alcohol and other drug harm, such as keeping families strong and providing pathways for young people from education to work. 

For more information on the program and funding click on the link below:

Reducing the supply of alcohol

Limiting the supply of alcohol is a good way of reducing the harms from alcohol, such as:

Aboriginal leaders in Fitzroy Valley, Western Australia were able to introduce alcohol restrictions in their community, to reduce alcohol related harms.

Read more about community action in the Fitzroy Valley:

Dry community declarations

Depending on the state or territory in which you live, it may be possible for some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to declare their communities 'dry' - that is, to prohibit the sale or consumption of alcohol within their boundaries. When initiated and supported by the community, these bans can help reduce health and social problems that come with drinking too much alcohol. The Yalata community in South Australia and the Titjikala community in the Northern Territory are just two examples of communities that have used dry community declarations as part of a number of strategies within an alcohol management plan.

Read more about:

Liquor licensing laws

One way of reducing the supply of alcohol is through liquor licensing laws.  Liquor licensing laws allow people from the community to object to a new license being granted, or place certain restrictions on the sale of alcohol if it is likely to increase alcohol related harm in the community.

In Alice Springs and Tennant Creek, some community groups have successfully lobbied for reductions in trading hours. The Bourke alcohol working group is another example of how local community groups can work with police, council and other agencies to reduce alcohol related harms in their area.

Liquor licensing laws differ between states and territories. Communities should contact the liquor licensing office in their state or territory to talk about how they can apply for additional restrictions on alcohol supply. Click on the links below for contact details of each State Liquor Licensing Office.

Table 1: State Liquor Licensing Offices

Australian Capital Territory ACT Government Justice and Community Safety
New South Wales New South Wales Office of Liquor, Gaming & Racing
Northern Territory Business and Industry
Queensland Queensland Government Business and Industry Portal
South Australia Consumer and Business Services
Tasmania Liquor and Gaming
Victoria Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation
Western Australia Department of Racing, Gaming and Liquor

Reducing the supply of volatile substances

Reducing the supply of volatile substances is a strategy that has been very successful in reducing the harm caused by petrol sniffing. Low aromatic fuel (or Opal fuel) contains fewer of the ingredients that can be sniffed. Supplying Opal fuel instead of unleaded petrol in Central Australian communities has led to a reduction in the numbers of young people sniffing petrol and therefore a reduction in the harms caused by petrol sniffing. Refusal to sell other volatile substances, such as paint and glue to young people has also been effective in reducing sniffing.

Programs such as Central Australian Youth Link up Service (CALYUS), the Mt Theo program and the Yuendumu youth program are examples of programs that have successfully addressed volatile substance use by reducing both the supply of volatile substances and by providing activities to engage young people.

Find out more about low aromatic fuel (Opal fuel):

Reducing the harm caused by alcohol and other drugs

Sometimes it is not possible to get people to stop using alcohol or other drugs. Sometimes people take a long time to come off alcohol and drugs. There are community services that keep people safe and help people find treatment services. These community services are an important part of reducing the harm from alcohol and drug use.

Here are some examples of community services working to reduce harm:


Information on this page is taken from:

Gray D (2012) Community-wide approaches to substance misuse. In: Lee K, Freeburn B, Ella S, Miller W, Perry J, Conigrave K, eds. Handbook for Aboriginal alcohol and drug work. Sydney: University of Sydney: 331-342

Gray D, Wilkes E (2010) Reducing alcohol and other drug related harm: resource sheet no. 3 Canberra: Closing the Gap Clearinghouse

DrugInfo (2013) Alcohol and drug prevention in the community Retrieved 2015 from

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Last updated: 22 June 2017
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Australia's National Research Centre on AOD Workforce Development National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre National Drug Research Institute