The Sublime Tragedy of Kava in North East Arnhem Land
It takes a long time to understand even the basics of Yolngu life and to understand the dynamics of kava in North East Arnhem land is equally difficult. Perhaps the best that can be done is to simply state some less than obvious facts. There is a bottom line problem at an individual level with kava. Its abuse, whether detrimental to long term health or not, can have a very troubling effect on personal, family and community life. Is this effect worse than the effects of Australia’s number 1 drug, alcohol? Definitely not. Nonetheless personal abuse of kava is a major problem in contemporary society even its homelands of Fiji. Successive Federal and Northern Territory governments have understandably acted to ban kava, however, in cutting back funding to Aboriginal homelands and communities they have also created an inevitable escalation of an illegal, out of control market that makes Al Capone’s bootleg industry of Chicago in the 1930s look like a tea party. The porous coastlines of Arnhem land and the relatively free movement and exchange of kava outside of the Northern Territory made an explosion of illegal kava usage and abuse in the North inevitable. This has an even more compounding destructive effect on Yol\u life and a fresh approach from government, the courts and police is badly needed.
This article is available to be downloaded free of charge from 10am 11 May, 2015. It will be discussed exclusively on the Sandy Dann Country Affairs show Radio Goolarri Broome at 10.15 WST or 12.15 EST. For comment call Peter Botsman on 0244651665.
Photograph at right, Hero of Yirrkala's war years Reverend Kolinio Saukuru and family, Yirrkala, circa 1946 probably was the first to introduce kava into North East Arnhem Land.