Victorian Department of Health
Victoria’s current public intoxication laws have had an unacceptable and disproportionate impact on the state’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, which is why from 7 November 2023, being intoxicated in public will no longer be a criminal offence.
This reform responds to extensive Aboriginal community advocacy and action and key recommendations from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.
As we make the transition from the current justice response to a health-led response to public intoxication, a range of new services will be available across the state for people who find themselves intoxicated, and in need of help.
The new health-led model will see outreach services supporting people who are intoxicated in public in the areas they are needed most, and if needed, providing them with transport to a safe place.
For many people, this will be their own home or that of a family member, friend or carer. For others, it will be a sobering service or a place of safety, which are culturally appropriate and safe spaces they can recover and receive support.
The health-led model prioritises services for the Aboriginal community, in acknowledgement of the disproportionate impact public intoxication laws and police interactions have had on Aboriginal people.
Ambulance Victoria and Victoria Police will continue to help Victorians as they normally would in instances where there are emergency health or community safety risks.
It’s important to note that decriminalisation will abolish the offence of public drunkenness. It does not impact existing laws and regulations relating to the supply and consumption of liquor, major events, or the consumption of alcohol in public places (as regulated by local councils).
The new model will focus on providing support for people who may have otherwise come into contact with police. Given the disproportionate impact on the Aboriginal community, the model prioritises the safety and wellbeing of Aboriginal people living in Victoria.
We will be delivering dedicated outreach services and places of safety for Aboriginal people in metropolitan Melbourne and in regional and outer metropolitan locations; and a general non-cohort-specific service in metropolitan Melbourne.
Ambulance Victoria and Victoria Police will continue to provide a response in instances of public intoxication where there are emergency health risks or community safety risks. In the absence of such risks, police officers will provide support to individuals in need of assistance, including referrals to the new health-led services where appropriate and available.
For police, in the absence of community safety risks, this may include providing general support such as contacting friends or family, arranging transport, referring the person to the new health-led services where appropriate, or support them to contact alternative local support services. Police may decide to leave a person in place where support is no longer required, or consent is not provided. As they currently do, police will continue to contact ambulance services where a serious health risk is identified.
For ambulance services, there is expected to be limited change to current responses. Ambulance services will continue to respond to people who require emergency care and, if necessary, transport them to emergency departments. They may also contact police if there are community safety risks.
For more information, visit www.health.vic.gov.au/alcohol-and-drugs/public-intoxication-reform.