28 Jun 2007

Australia bans importation of kava

6:48 pm on 28 June 2007

Australia has banned the importation of kava to reduce the spread of the intoxicating drink in Aboriginal communities.

The Australian newspaper reports that the move, which took effect this week, has been welcomed by the Northern Territory government which has long lobbied for the ban.

The restrictions do not include using kava for medical and scientific purposes and also allow for the importation of up to 2kg of kava in the baggage of incoming adult passengers.

The Australian Health Minister, Tony Abbott, says the limited availability of kava is in recognition of the traditional ceremonial and cultural role it held for local Pacific Islanders.

But, he says the restrictions on imports were necessary to combat kava abuse and health problems in Aboriginal communities.

Mr Abbott says kava abuse has become an increasingly serious problem in indigenous communities over recent years where excessive consumption occurs and the health effects are more severe.

In 2002, the Northern Territory government moved to curb the black market by legalising kava in four communities in northeast Arnhem Land but it is also regularly smuggled into larger communities.