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Indigenous Community Lashes Out Over Vegemite Alcohol Claims

Indigenous people have taken to social media to slam the government's claims that Vegemite is being used to make alcohol, saying it demonises the entire community.

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Over the weekend, the Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nigel Scullion said that some remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory, where alcohol is illegal, are making moonshine from Vegemite.

Julian Smith / AAPIMAGE

In a statement Minister Scullion said that the iconic Australia breakfast spread was a "precursor to misery" and that alcohol manufactured using Vegemite had seen an increase truancy from Aboriginal children in remote communities who were missing school because they were too hungover to attend.

Minister Scullion also claimed that the alcohol has contributed to cases of domestic violence.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott then ruled out a "Vegemite watch" in remote communities.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott (Dan Kitwood / Getty Images)

Abbott said he would not support a ban or restriction on Vegemite in remote communities.

"This is a deregulatory Government and the last thing I want to do is to have a Vegemite watch ... because Vegemite, quite properly, is for most people a reasonably nutritious spread on your morning toast or on your sandwiches," he said.

Minister Scullion says that, "businesses in these communities also have a responsibility to report any purchase that may raise their own suspicions."

One of the frontline organisations working to address alcohol issues in Aboriginal communities says the claims have been blown out of proportion.

Dr John Boffa (Alan Porritt / AAPIMAGE)

Dr John Boffa from the People's Alcohol Action Coalition, a community-based group that works to address alcohol abuse in Aboriginal communities in central Australia, has told the BBC that incidents involving Vegemite to make alcohol were not widespread.

"We're talking about an isolated problem in a couple of communities around a very large nation, and a nation where there is a very large number of Aboriginal communities, and every community is different," Boffa said.

Indigenous people questioned the claims on social media.

The issue of denying #Vegemite to Aboriginal communities is a complex one... We better check with Eddie McGuire before labelling it racist.

Is Minister for Aboriginal Affairs @TonyAbbottMHR capable of significant policy development for #JustJustice other than banning #Vegemite

Some mocked the government's claims.

Best way to start a Monday morning! I luv youse awl! #Vegemite

Ahhh I get it, #Vegemite is black, that's why they are trying to ban it in black communities! #blackvegemitelivesmatter @IndigenousX

While others thought the claims had demonised remote communities.

There shld be a ban of Vegemite across the entire community. To single out Aboriginal communities is unfair on the rest of Australia #auspol

There are currently 19 communities across the Northern Territory where alcohol is restricted.

Allan Clarke / BuzzFeed

BuzzFeed News has requested comment from Minister Scullion's office.

Allan Clarke is an Indigenous Affairs Reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

Contact Allan Clarke at allan.clarke@buzzfeed.com.

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