Indigenous affairs minister Nigel Scullion said our national treasure is a “precursor to misery” due to it’s encouragement and enabling of alcoholism in some Australian communities. He reported that Vegemite was being bought in large quantities in order to make moonshine, a dangerous spirit on account of its very high alcohol content.
Scullion said that in some cases, the use of Vegemite to produce alcohol has been linked to domestic violence and children not attending school due to hangovers.
In some remote communities alcohol is banned due to alcohol addiction problems and it is these areas that could also see the spread taken off their shelves.
“Addiction of any type is a concern,” Scullion stated, “but communities, especially where alcohol is banned, must work to ensure home brewing of this type does not occur.”
Prime minister Tony Abbott has stated that he does wish to impose strict regulations on Vegemite. He claimed: “the last thing I want to do is have a ‘Vegemite Watch’. Vegemite, quite properly, is for most people a reasonably nutritious spread on your morning toast or on your sandwiches.”
In Queensland, there are 19 communities in which alcohol is limited or banned, and in 2013 the provincial government said it was considering removing the bans due to an increase in homemade alcohol production.
While a removal of the spread could be beneficial, there are also reports of other food and drinks, being used to produce alcohol.
Selwyn Button from the Queensland Aboriginal and Islander health Council said, “they’re using a whole range of products and items that can be used to essentially ferment and turn into alcohol.”
Evidently, the trend of making alcohol out of national spread is a deeper cultural issue which requires closer scrutiny from government and organisations. Rather than implementing a temporary, piecemeal measure, the government should look at educational programs that tackle the heart of the issue. If they’re using vegemite, indigenous Australians in remote communities will be bound to find other products with which to satisfy their alcoholism even after it is banned.
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