Oz warns against home­brew Vegemite al­co­hol drinks


Aus­tralia’s in­dige­nous af­fairs min­is­ter warned Sun­day about the use of pop­u­lar spread Vegemite to make home­brew liquor in re­mote com­mu­ni­ties where al­co­hol is banned, de­scrib­ing it as a “pre­cur­sor to mis­ery.”

The sticky spread, made from yeast ex­tract, is an Aus­tralian icon and sim­i­lar to its Bri­tish cousin Mar­mite.

But in some re­mote Abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­ni­ties in the North­ern Ter­ri­tory where liquor is banned to stem al­co­hol-re­lated prob­lems, min­is­ter Nigel Scul­lion had heard of Vegemite be­ing used to con­coct the home­brew, his spokes­woman told AFP.

“Ad­dic­tion of any type is a con­cern but com­mu­ni­ties, es­pe­cially where al­co­hol is banned, must work to en­sure home brew­ing of this type does not oc­cur,” Scul­lion said in a state­ment.

“Busi­nesses in these com­mu­ni­ties also have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to re­port any pur­chase that may raise their own sus­pi­cions.”

He added to The Sun­day Mail news­pa­per in Bris­bane that the home­brew was a “pre­cur­sor to mis­ery” and chil­dren in some com­muni- ties had missed school as they were too hun­gover from all-night ben­ders.

The Mail said Vegemite was be­ing made into al­co­hol in large quan­ti­ties such as in bath­tubs in back­yards.

The min­is­ter stopped short, how­ever, of plac­ing re­stric­tions or bans on the sale of the spread or other yeast-based prod­ucts in such com­mu­ni­ties.

Other sources of home­brew liquor have in­cluded mouth­wash and vanilla ex­tract, the spokes­woman added.

No Sales Ban

The head of Queens­land po­lice’s union told the news­pa­per he had also seen Vegemite be­ing used for brew­ing illegal al­co­hol in the state’s Abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­ni­ties.

“While we can­not just go out and ban ev­ery­thing that could pos­si­bly be used to make illegal al­co­hol, at the same time com­mon sense needs to take place and if peo­ple are pur­chas­ing large quan­ti­ties of an item that could be used for brew­ing illegal al­co­hol, ques­tions should al­ways be asked,” the union’s pres­i­dent Ian Leavers said.

Some 19 Abo­rig­i­nal and Tor­res Strait Is­lan­der com­mu­ni­ties in Queens­land have al­co­hol bans or re­stric­tions. Un­der the state’s laws, mak­ing home­brew is an of­fence in com­mu­ni­ties where al­co­hol is banned.

Abo­rig­ines, the most dis­ad­van­taged Aus­tralians, are be­lieved to have num­bered around one mil­lion at the time of Bri­tish set­tle­ment.

There are now just 470,000 out of a to­tal pop­u­la­tion of 23 mil­lion, and they suf­fer dis­pro­por­tion­ate lev­els of dis­ease, im­pris­on­ment and so­cial prob­lems as well as sig­nif­i­cantly lower ed­u­ca­tion, em­ploy­ment and life ex­pectancy.

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