If you're planning on travelling through far north Queensland and Cape York, you need to know about alcohol restrictions.
Alcohol restrictions are in place in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Queensland. They aim to help improve the health and well-being of all people living in the remote communities.
These restrictions either ban or limit the amount and type of alcohol you can take into a community.
Which communities have alcohol limits?
Alcohol limits and bans are in place in:
- Hope Vale
- Lockhart River
- Mornington Island
- New Mapoon
- Palm Island
- Wujal Wujal
There are different restrictions for each community. In some communities, alcohol is completely banned.
Fines and penalties
You are breaking the law if you try to go into a restricted area with an amount of alcohol that's above the set limit. If you do, you risk having to pay a fine or going to jail. The maximum penalties for breaching the alcohol limit are:
- first offence 375 penalty units (currently $41,250)
- second offence 525 penalty units (currently $57,750) or 6 months imprisonment
- third or subsequent offence 750 penalty units (currently 82,500) or 18 Months imprisonment.
Specific road exemptions (Doomadgee, Lockhart River, Wujal Wujal)
Certain roads and public areas which are included in the restricted areas of Doomadgee, Lockhart River and Wujal Wujal have been declared as "specific roads and public facilities". A bona fide traveller exemption applies to specified roads and facilities in these three communities whereby someone passing through can carry more than the prescribed amount of alcohol allowed in the restricted area, provided they meet the following criteria:
- a reverse onus of proof applies and travellers will have to provide evidence their destination is not the restricted area. If you choose to carry alcohol on the specified roads, you must be able to prove on the balance of probabilities that your final destination is not the restricted area. Your trip itinerary, valid camping permits, drivers licence showing your home address is not within the restricted area and accommodation bookings in destinations outside the restricted area can all be used to demonstrate your intended destination
- alcohol is secured in the vehicle, is not externally visible and is not removed from the vehicle while travelling on a specified road or using a specified public facility. You must not consume the alcohol whilst within the restricted area
- if you have more than the prescribed limit in your possession, you cannot stop within the community other than in an emergency situation, or if you are stopping at the prescribed public facilities subject to the bona fide traveller exemption.
The exemption only applies to bona fide travellers passing through Wujal Wujal, Lockhart River or Doomadgee on the following roads or while using the specified public facilities noted below:
- The Bloomfield Track (including Douglas Street and the Rossville-Bloomfield Road as they pass through the community) and the Bloomfield Crossing
- The public facilities within Wujal Wujal include the car park near the Bloomfield Falls and the car park for the Wujal Wujal Arts and Cultural Centre.
- Frenchmen’s Road; and Portland Roads Road
- The Savannah Way
- The public facilities within Doomadgee include the Doomadgee Roadhouse area.
All other roads and facilities within these three communities are subject to the restrictions, there are no exemptions for anyone.
The bona fide traveller exemption does not apply in any other community.
Alcohol carriage limits must be adhered to at all times when travelling through any alcohol restricted community on roads not listed above.
Police can stop and search any vehicle coming into a Restricted Area. Police can take all alcohol where alcohol restrictions are being breached. They can also seize a vehicle (including a car, a boat or a plane) used to bring alcohol into a Restricted Area or dry place. Police can take a vehicle if they believe it is necessary to stop the vehicle being used again to break alcohol laws.
The new laws allow police to:
- search a person without a warrant if they suspect they are carrying illicit alcohol
- enter and search a house without a warrant if they suspect there is illicit alcohol in that house
- stop and search a vehicle or an animal, and a vehicle pulled by an animal, under the control of a person attempting to enter a Restricted Area with illicit alcohol
You can also call the alcohol limits information line on 13 QGOV (13 74 68).