Aussies Desperate for Alcohol

Aussies Desperate for Alcohol

Vegemite Officially the Nectar of the Gods

Vegemite is reportedly being used to make homemade alcohol in dry Indigenous communities across Queensland and the Northern Territory in Australia.

In some areas, there have been reported instances of people buying up to 20 jars of the yeast-based spread at a time. However, Queensland police have ruled out a crackdown and are downplaying the reports.

Australia’s federal Indigenous Affairs Minister, Nigel Scullion, initially described the use of the spread for making alcohol as a “precursor to misery”.

Scullion called for businesses to bring attention to customers stockpiling the spread, linking its use as home brew to domestic violence, underage drinking and truancy. 

However, the government will not place any restrictions on the sale of the product. 

Scullion said that the government’s goal is for local communities to take greater responsibility. “Our priority has always been to get kids to school, make communities safer and get people into jobs. Businesses in these communities also have a responsibility to report any purchase that may raise their own suspicions.”

There are 19 communities across Queensland where the sale of alcohol is limited or banned. In 2013, the Queensland government considered removing some of these alcohol bans due to a growing increase in the prominence of home-brew alcohol.

Geoff Marsh, Queensland’s far north region crime coordinator, said local police were aware that people in Indigenous communities had been using the yeast in Vegemite to produce alcohol, saying that they have “done it for years”.

Marsh said that “there are a lot of products that contain yeast and it’s all a bit of a beat up. We’re not overly concerned about it at all in our position.”

Marsh, unlike Scullion, does not expect local communities to take responsibility, saying that Vegemite is just “one avenue towards [making alcohol], it’s not illegal and we’re not going to be telling shops to not sell Vegemite or give us the tip on who buys 50 bottles of Vegemite”.

Dr John Baffa of the People’s Alcohol Action Coalition based in Alice Springs, which is part of the Northern Territory, said that the issue has been exaggerated and the problem is not widespread. “We’re talking about an isolated problem in a couple of communities around a very large nation.”

This article first appeared in Issue 20, 2015.
Posted 11:31am Sunday 16th August 2015 by Oliver Gaskell.