Grog War book cover

Grog War Book Review

Grog War documents the saga of the Indigenous People’s human rights war on the effects of alcohol abuse. It challenges assumptions made about Indigenous self-determination and encourages the ongoing debate around alcohol restrictions. A must-read for all Australians.

Book review by: Steph Huddleston

Author: Alexis Wright

Genre: Non-fiction

Subgenre: Australian History

Publication date: 1st July 2021


Grog war is written by award-winning First Nations author, Alexis Wright. Wright has researched and documented the book on behalf of the Julalikari Council, a major Indigenous organisation in Tennant Creek, in the Northern Territory of Australia. Originally written in 1996 Grog War preserves this important story. Grog War is about Indigenous People working together against alcohol for the benefit of the whole community. 

Spanning decades, Wright unpacks the history of the Indigenous Peoples campaign to battle the effects of alcohol and get the community to take some responsibility and work together to combat this issue. The book documents the decades-long saga of Indigenous initiative and the lobbying efforts of the Julalikari Council and other Indigenous organisations to change attitudes towards alcohol availability and gain community understanding of the effects of alcohol on the lives of aboriginal people living in Tennant Creek (and across Australia).   

 What we thought about Grog War

Before starting our review, we would like to acknowledge that the shop operates on the land of the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung and the Bunurong of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to the traditional owners, their elders (past and present) and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.

Grog War challenges many long-held attitudes towards Aboriginal people and alcohol. From unpacking the ‘us’ and ‘them’ narrative with its often blatantly racist origins, to building an understanding in non-aboriginal people of Indigenous capacity to govern and implement effective strategies to manage alcohol abuse. 

Grog War is essential to the dialogue in discussion around alcohol in Australia. As the author so succinctly puts it.

Indigenous People need to be free enough to be able to stand up and tell their own stories and share their vision for the future without fear of condemnation and hostile criticism from the rest of Australia.’

Grog War does not shy away from topics that often become heated in this debate. It has a strong stance on ‘the human right to have a drink’. Wrights discussion of these topics is nuanced. Sharing the lived experience of people from the community as well the legal evidence provided on these issues.

It is a challenging read, for the way in which it forces readers to assess assumptions they may have held about alcohol and aboriginal people, as well as self-determination. This is vital. Oftentimes, assumptions are formed out of ignorance, rather than accurate understanding, or compassion. 

The Tennant Creek community have accomplished an amazing thing in the community. Especially as the debate around alcohol restriction and Indigenous self-determination continues. The current edition of this book has an updated introduction.

Grog War is perfect for

Anyone looking to explore Australian history, those interested in social justice and politics. Essential reading for all Australians. 

This book contains: descriptions of crimes against first nations peoples, descriptions of alcohol abuse.

Want to buy a copy of this book? Head to our shop to order a copy.