Drunken arrests decision sparks division

Aboriginal organisations and legal experts are backing a government decision against giving police replacement powers when public drunkenness is decriminalised, drawing the ire of the police union.

Public drunkenness will be decriminalised in Victoria in November following a commitment from the Andrews government at the start of a 2019 coronial inquest into Yorta Yorta woman Tanya Day's death.

Ms Day was arrested for being drunk in a public place in December 2017 and later died after she hit her head on a wall in a concrete cell at Castlemaine Police Station.

Her death was preventable, a coroner found.

"Our mother would still be here with us today if Victoria Police had treated her condition seriously and cared for her with a public health response but they chose to criminalise her at her most vulnerable time," Ms Day's family said in a statement.

"No person should ever be locked up just for being drunk in public and there should be no role for police or police cells in a public health response."

First Peoples' Assembly of Victoria co-chair Marcus Stewart described public drunkenness laws as discriminatory and said the "sensible" reforms would likely save lives.

Victoria Legal Aid also welcomed the news as a means to reduce deaths in custody and the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service said it was a testament to the Day family's tireless advocacy.

"In other Australian jurisdictions where police maintain detention powers for public intoxication, despite decriminalisation of this offence, Aboriginal people continue to be locked up and die in custody," the Aboriginal legal service's chief executive Nerita Waight said.

Queensland is the only state that hasn't moved to decriminalise public drunkenness, but in October a parliamentary committee recommended that happen once appropriate social service programs were in place.

A spokesperson for the Queensland police minister told AAP that the committee's report was still being considered as of Thursday.

Victorian Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes, who on Tuesday confirmed the government's decision not to replace police powers, pointed to other jurisdictions in Australia and globally that have decriminalised public intoxication.

The Police Association has supported the government's intent to reform, but derided its approach as "negligent and reckless" saying it would leave officers unable to support the community in many circumstances.

"What is dangerous, however, is to do so without maintaining the safety net that would provide police with a means to manage people in the community that do not consent to a health response or where a health response is simply not available," secretary Wayne Gatt said.

A statewide public health response will be rolled out and the government says Victoria Police will retain all of its powers to respond to safety concerns.

"We want to make sure that people are not put in cells to sober up," Ms Symes said, adding that authorities would address any issues arising from a trial of sobering-up centres, including one in Melbourne's CBD.

While supportive of decriminalising public drunkenness, opposition police spokesman Brad Battin disputed the government's suggestion police would still have powers to move on alcohol-affected people.

Under Victorian legislation, police can direct people to move on when suspected on "reasonable grounds" they are likely to breach the peace, endanger others, injure someone or damage property.

The Victorian Ambulance Union supports the reform but wants to make sure it works well, with secretary Danny Hill saying sober-up facilities and outreach services were a good step.