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Kava to be allowed at all multicultural festivals

Pacific Islanders, such as Siosiua Lafitani Tofua'ipangai,   will be allowed to drink kava at  the Multicultural Festival from now on.

Pacific Islanders, such as Siosiua Lafitani Tofua'ipangai, will be allowed to drink kava at the Multicultural Festival from now on. Photo: Stuart Walmsley

Kava users have welcomed the permanent lifting of a ban on the drink at the National Multicultural Festival, but have called for further exemptions for other cultural events.

Kava is treated as a prescription-only medicine in the ACT, and traditional forms of the drink are not legally permitted.

That meant the drink, an important part of many Pacific island cultures, could not be consumed at the National Multicultural Festival, something that had angered local communities.

The ACT government bowed to community pressure last year and overturned the ban, allowing a trial of kava for Pacific islanders, but only at the 2012 National Multicultural Festival.

The ACT government announced on Wednesday that the trial was a success and would be continued permanently.

Australian Kava Movement spokesman Siua Tofua'ipangai welcomed the announcement, saying it had come after a long struggle by kava users.

But he said bans on kava should be exempted at other significant events as well.

"It's good after our struggle and discussion with them back and forth since 2011," Dr Tofua'ipangai said.

"We are happy with this decision but we would be more happy if they give us exemption for our cultural and religious kava activities."

Dr Tofua'ipangai said federal laws restricting the importation of kava to two kilograms should also be changed.

ACT Chief Health Officer Paul Kelly said the drink could now be consumed for "cultural purposes" only, within the confines of the National Multicultural Festival.

"The cultural use of traditional kava preparations poses a low health risk and clear limits have been placed on the exemption," Dr Kelly said.

"Kava may only be legally prepared, possessed or consumed in accordance with the customs of the Pacific islands, such as serving from a traditional kava bowl as part of a traditional kava ceremony or kava circle."

4 comments

  • New Zealand being a major part of Polynesia is definately a Pacific Island and New Zealanders all Pacific Islanders so we all get to drink kava. Be interesting to see how they will distinguish between Maori Pacific Islanders and Pakeha Pacific Islanders without discriminating. kia ora

    Commenter
    Mataanuku
    Location
    Canberra
    Date and time
    February 07, 2013, 9:04AM
    • Does the word discrimination come to mind?

      Commenter
      OLD DOG
      Location
      ACT
      Date and time
      February 07, 2013, 9:06AM
      • Is the ACT government referring to actual citizenship of a Pacific Island nation, or is it making different rules for different Australians depending on their ancestry, culture or physical appearance?

        Who decides who is Pacific Islander and who is not? Do people have to prove they are Pacific Islanders in order to consume kava during ceremonies at the festival, or is it up to the ACT government to prove certain people aren't Pacific Islanders and shouldn't be consuming kava?

        Kava for all sounds good to me. Kava for Pacific Islanders only sounds very wrong to me. I thought the National Multicultural Festival was about sharing our cultures, and encouraging each other to participate and learn. How is discrimination at a multicultural festival a good thing?

        Commenter
        Bearlikesbeer
        Date and time
        February 07, 2013, 12:04PM
        • When this article was first posted, it contained the line "It still means only Pacific Islanders are allowed to drink kava." This line has since been removed and, according to the kava info sheet on the NMF website, we can all take part in consumption of kava at the festival if invited by the ceremony hosts.

          Commenter
          Bearlikesbeer
          Date and time
          February 07, 2013, 2:26PM
          Comments are now closed
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