A study has found the majority of indigenous drink drivers were adhering to kinship obligations while offending.
A study has found the majority of indigenous drink drivers were adhering to kinship obligations while offending. Max Fleet

DUI study finds indigenous cultural lore stronger than law

A STUDY that led to a unique drink driving program piloted in the Clarence Valley found some indigenous motorists preferred to break criminal law rather than their cultural lore.

The program's creator, Michelle Fitts, found that the decision to drive after drinking alcohol was not necessarily made in disregard of criminal law but rather to meet cultural obligations.

The Queensland University of Technology's Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety PhD student used one-on-one interviews with convicted repeat drink drivers to develop a community-focused drink driving pilot program.

"The majority of indigenous drink drivers were adhering to kinship obligations - that is doing what they have been asked by a more senior family member," she said.

"For example, one participant recounted an instance when he was asked to drive after drinking on the evening of the day he had been sentenced to parole from his most recent drink driving offence."

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The man told Ms Fitts he said he would not drive, but they repeatedly asked him and argued there were no police around.

"To go against lore has serious social implications including risk of immediate intimidation or violence and isolation or marginalisation from family in the longer term," she said.

Ms Fitts said indigenous Australians were three times more likely to be involved in a serious or fatal road crash than the rest of population.

"While there are numerous drink driving programs, few consider indigenous culture and all treat drink driving as an individual phenomenon rather than a community or social issue," she said.

Ms Fitts said her program replaced "individual blame" with shared community responsibility.

"We invited family members, drug and alcohol workers and community elders to take part," she said.

Ms Fitts said feedback had shown there was strong support for a community-focused approach to drink driving.

"We know that it's not going to be easy to change the community perception and attitudes towards drink driving in indigenous communities, but getting the community on board is the first step in achieving effective change," she said.

Ms Fitts said CARRS-Q was looking for funding to roll out the drink driving program widely.

James Cook University also supported the study.

- APN NEWSDESK



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