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February 6, 2020

Anyone for a beer in the Parklands?

If the proposed Parklands 24/7 alcohol ban is implemented, the tradition of cracking tinnies in the city's Green Belt will be reserved only for the privileged few.

  • Words: Stephanie Richards
  • Main image: InDaily

I’ve just finished reading JK Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy.  

For those unacquainted with Rowling’s first adult-demo novel – no, it’s not about wizards getting up to mischief at Hogwarts or “he who cannot be named.” Instead, The Casual Vacancy is a slightly more realistic story about a quaint English village called Pagford and a neighbouring housing estate called The Fields.


The Adelaide City Council wants to hear your thoughts on the proposed Parklands 24/7 dry zone.

Visit the Council’s YourSay site to share your view.

For background, The Fields is built on valuable land, but its welfare-receiving residents live in squalor and regularly engage in “anti-social behaviour” – drinking, drugs and violence.

There are some on the Pagford District Council that are sympathetic to the plights faced by residents of The Fields. There are others who consider them blights on Pagford’s otherwise idyllic reputation. What ensues is a destructive feud that pits councillor against councillor, the wealthy against the poor, and the authorities against the public.

Some 16,000 kilometres away, in a quaint (and non-fictional) Australian city called Adelaide, a similar quarrel is brewing over a valuable piece of land called the Parklands.

Come local government election time, it is customary that Adelaide City Council candidates coo over the 930 hectares of green space like overly protective parents.

There are laudable promises to stand in front of chainsaws, improve amenities and stop commercialisation in its tracks, with the universal goal of keeping Adelaide’s beautiful green belt open, accessible and most important of all – public.

But there is also an uncomfortable side to the Parklands, where race, cultural differences and social class threaten to dampen its cherubic reputation.

Ironically, the contention lies in the fact the Parklands have become, for some, too public, too open and too accessible to all of society’s diverse peoples, cultures, races and classes. The open space regularly hosts rough sleepers, whose behaviour is deemed distasteful and threatening by some of the neighbouring business owners and residents.

Parklands piss ups are a bit of a thing. Photo: Jack Fenby


This is nothing new. The Adelaide public is well acquainted with the rinse and repeat mantras thrown about every summer whenever rough sleepers dare make their presence known within the Green Belt.

The argument is made that the homeless compromise public safety, they are incapable of properly looking after themselves, and that they threaten the city’s standing as a family-friendly destination.

Those who dispute those views often describe them as racist, classist, or at the least mean-spirited – sometimes turning a blind eye to concerns from business owners and residents, who claim to witness domestic violence, public defecation and property damage outside their windows on a daily basis.

Herein lies Adelaide’s perennial problem – no one likes to see people sleeping rough, no one likes to see people with alcohol or drug-related problems, and no one wants to feel unsafe in the Parklands. The question is, how do we address this?

The Adelaide City Council’s solution is a controversial one: to ban the consumption of alcohol – at all times – in every single park in the Parklands.

It’s a step-up from the current policy implemented in 2014, which only bans the consumption of alcohol between 8pm and 11am. If imposed by the State Government, the new policy would fine people up to $5,000 for drinking or possessing alcohol in the Parklands – unless they apply for a $93 short-term liquor licence from Consumer and Business Services at least one week in advance.

The council’s rationale is thus: some rough sleepers are problem drinkers, drinking alcohol causes anti-social behaviour, banning alcohol in the Parklands would stop anti-social behaviour.

Of course, the problem is a lot more nuanced. Social service providers are quick to point out that implementing a dry zone in the Parklands would only punish people with complex needs and further entrench them into hardship. It has also been said that implementing a dry zone in the Parklands would only move problem drinking elsewhere – a convenient solution for the Adelaide City Council, which would no doubt benefit from ridding itself of the aforementioned discomfort.

Then there’s the question of race. The council denies that the policy would target Aboriginal people, but the fact remains that the very idea of implementing a 24/7 dry zone in the Parklands came about after a group of about 50 Aboriginal people arrived in Adelaide in October last year.

South ward councillor and newly-appointed Deputy Lord Mayor Alexander Hyde, who is the mastermind behind the council’s push to ban alcohol in the Parklands, told InDaily at the time that there had been a “recent spate” of violence, public defecation and drunkenness between Whitmore Square and the south Parklands after the group arrived.

“This is a seasonal issue and it is one that come up every year, however this year it’s worse than previous years,” he told InDaily.

“They (Aboriginal people) will sleep in the Parklands… they will come to the Hutt Street Centre for breakfast and then they will migrate through the Parklands.

“It’s blown up in my ward. There have been several community meetings and [a number] in the region of 100 residents come to these meetings.”

The concerns prompted promises of funding and government action to help deal with the issue once and for all. Anglicare SA CEO Peter Sandeman, who co-chairs the Adelaide Zero Project to end street homelessness in Adelaide, has called on Premier and Aboriginal Affairs Minister Steven Marshall to urgently establish a multi-agency taskforce to address Aboriginal rough sleepers in the Parklands.

But some councillors say a taskforce will not solve the problem fast enough. Urgent action must be taken, they claim, to alleviate the stress on south ward residents and businesses, who are apparently buckling under the stress of having to deal with the presence of homeless people.

The urgent action (read: quick fix) is the Parklands 24/7 dry zone.

In order to implement a 24/7 alcohol ban in the Parklands, the council needs to prove to the State Government that it has community support. It is asking the public to submit feedback on the proposal via its Your Say website, with consultation closing COB on Friday, 21 February.

It is important to consider the repercussions such a policy could have not just on rough sleepers but the community at large. What will happen to the customary post-footy beer on the weekend, or the family barbeque in Botanic Park? How will authorities feel about fining rough sleepers $5000 for taking a swig from a bottle?

Like the fictional Pagford District Council, our real-life city council is caught up in an unwinnable political and social war. Take a hard-line approach and the council is labelled racist and classist. Take a soft-line approach and people will claim it is ignoring ratepayers’ concerns.

Now that the ball has been thrown in the public arena, time will tell how Adelaideans really feel about the future of their open, accessible and most important of all – public – Parklands.

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