Veronica … Mornington Island … Where Home Brew Kills …

Thrilled, but also saddened to once again travel to remote Mornington Island (Kunhanhaa) in the tropical Gulf of Carpentaria in northern Australia … the third visit in the past year.

Mornington is a delightful destination populated by delightful people … but the community are grappling with many social ills mainly caused by the tyranny of distance and basically, being ‘forgotten’.

New young Kunhanhaa Mayor Kyle Yanner is determined to raise awareness about the many issues that have beset his community … and has managed to get the attention of the Queensland Government near two thousand kilometres distant in Brisbane.

I again made many images during last weeks visit to the island … but this pic of five year old Veronica Barnes is the one I’m most fond of. I was concentrating on portraying a 16 year old who was a ‘home brew’ imbiber when I glanced Veronica and her tiny puppy. A couple of frames later and I had what I think is a ‘special’ image (sorta ‘Bill Henson style’ 😉 ). (NB … her father gave permission for the pic to be seen.)

Veronica’s community is experiencing the ravages of a wide spread ‘home brew’ alcohol epidemic … and this was the main thrust of our story. She is growing up in a community where many of her extended family members and friends are suffering the consequences of alcohol induced diabetes and untimely death. The community … ‘dry’ for twenty  years … has seen a rapid rise of dangerous home brewed alcohols … and children as young as ten years old have been imbibing and adversely effected. Diabetes cases have skyrocketed and the cemetery is littered with the graves of those who have succumbed to alcohol related issues in their teens, twenties and thirties. 

Mayor Yanner and the council are reaching out for urgent assistance to stem the scourge and are proposing the introduction of regulated mainstream mid strength alcohol products to the island, controlled at a Tavern. Queensland Minister for the Environment Meaghan Scanlon MP made the trek to Mornington last week to listen first hand to Yanner’s plans.

Veronica’s image was just one of the many made whilst covering the story (by journalist Domanii Cameron) in The Courier and Sunday Mail newspapers … below is a also page grab of the spread as published in Saturdays ‘Weekend’ edition.

My recent previous visits to Mornington documented severe overcrowding in the community’s housing (The Australian, December 2020) … and numerous issues in ‘The Queenslanders Left Behind’ (The Sunday Mail, May 2021)


Images ©Brian Cassey – publication © Courier Mail


'Veronica - Mornington Island - Where Home Brew Kills' - image by Brian Cassey for Courier Mail story on alcohol abuse and home brew on Mornington Island in the Gulf of Carpentaria.


'Veronica - Mornington Island - Where Home Brew Kills' - image by Brian Cassey for Courier Mail story on alcohol abuse and home brew on Mornington Island in the Gulf of Carpentaria.


Aurukun and the Grog …

With Queensland Premier Campbell Newman’s decision to roll back the indigenous alcohol management plans the excrement hit the proverbial fan! I travelled to Aurukun (via Weipa and a two hour drive each way) on the western tip of Cape York with Brisbane based journalist Jamie Walker for ‘The Australian’ last week – where we covered not only the alcohol issue but also the final declaration of the Wik Native Title Determination.

We were only able to stay in the indigenous township for a matter of a few hours so there was little time for a social ‘chit chat’!

However, our efforts were well rewarded  in Saturday’s Weekend Australian edition with a Page 1 story and large pic (of the very gracious Rebecca and Silas Wolmby), a spill to page 6 with another large image … and the whole of page 21 of the ‘Inquirer’ section with another two photos … all on the alcohol issue. We also scored page 3 and two pics in the Friday edition with the Wik Determination story.

Below I’ve posted a screen image of page 1 of Saturday’s Weekend Australian and also of Fridays page 3 of the Australian (with the image of delightful Aurukun school children and presiding Justice Andrew Greenwood). If you subscribe to the Australian you will be able to view these stories and pics online at

© Images by Brian Cassey