Key recommendation of a royal commission from 30 years ago around the issue of public drunkenness changed in all states except one.
Key recommendation of a royal commission from 30 years ago around the issue of public drunkenness changed in all states except one.

The only state where public drunkenness still a crime

Queensland is the only state in Australia where public drunkenness remains a crime despite a royal commission recommending it be abolished 30 years ago.

A landmark report borne out of the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody made hundreds of recommendations, with a key suggestion being the removal of laws allowing police to lock an individual behind bars for intoxication.

In February, Victoria passed legislation to abolish the crime after an inquest into the death of Yorta Yorta woman Tanya Day.

She was placed in a police sell to "sober up" after being found in late 2017 on a train.

Ms Day hit her head during the incident and suffered a brain haemorrhage, which eventually led to her death in hospital 17 days later.

"Them fellas, right after putting mum in that van, drove to pick up a drunk white woman around the corner and drove her home safely and didn't even issue her a fine," Tanya Day's daughter, Apryl, said at an Invasion Day rally in January.

RELATED: Stat reveals Australia's 30 year shame

Tanya Day’s daughter, Apryl, protesting to raise awareness of Indigenous Australians killed in custody. Picture: Aaron Francis/The Australian
Tanya Day’s daughter, Apryl, protesting to raise awareness of Indigenous Australians killed in custody. Picture: Aaron Francis/The Australian

A spokesperson for Queensland Police Minister Mark Ryan said there were "no plans" to abolish public drunkenness but said officers were encouraged to consider alternatives to detaining intoxicated individuals.

"The approach police take is about prioritising the safety of the intoxicated person and others who may be around them rather than imposing penalties," the minister's office said in a statement provided to NCA NewsWire.

"The Police Powers and Responsibilities Act means a police officer can deliver an intoxicated person to their own home, a hospital or diversionary centre that provides care for intoxicated people."

The state's Attorney-General, Shannon Fentiman, said she would consider steps to abolish the crime.

"I am looking with interest at the reforms passed in Victoria which decriminalised public drunkenness and instead treated the conduct as a health issue," she said.

First Nation Australians represent just 3 per cent of the country, but since the royal commission, the number of Aboriginals behind bars compared with the prison population has more than doubled from 14 to 30 per cent.

In some regions, that figure is closer to 90 per cent.

Originally published as Qld only state where public drunkenness still a crime