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If I told you there was an initiative that could reduce alcohol related violence across our State by 24% would you support it?

It’s interesting when someone holds a mirror to you and you see something so obvious that was previously invisible. Stuart (Kelly) is right – Australia is an alcoholic.

People in the know argue we are a State, and Nation, in crisis when it comes to effects of alcohol in our community – our “love affair with booze” is literally causing us to be blind to the negative consequences of its over-consumption.

Every year 70,000 people are the victim of alcohol related violence – that’s 70,000 sons, daughters, brothers and sisters – and the annual cost to our community is a very sobering $187 million dollars.

Yet in February 2016 our State Government will face enormous pressure to reverse legislative decisions that have proven to deliver what, I would suggest, are some of the most successful community health and societal gains in recent times.

It simply isn’t arguable – these new laws are saving lives and there are young people sitting at home tonight thanks to their introduction.

Thanks largely to the efforts of the Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation shining a light on the impact of alcohol related violence, this massive reduction in occurrence is not merely a dream – it is exactly what the NSW Government and NSW Police Force has been able to achieve since the introduction of earlier closing hours for bottles shops across the State and lock out laws in key trouble areas.

I was one of 700 people who recently turned out to support the Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation at their Take Kare Gala Dinner. The NSW Premier Mike Baird; the Lord Mayor – Clover Moore; the Prime Minister’s wife – Lucy Turnbull and NSW Police Commissioner – Andrew Scipione were also there along with a host of other important guests from the business, medical, sporting, entertainment and advocacy communities

All of us had the opportunity to hear what I think is one of the most heartbreaking but also inspiring stories of our time of a family who, in the face of unimaginable loss, harnessed what they could to ensure a loved one’s death was not in vain.

 A 24% reduction in alcohol related violence across the State … not just a small change but a movement of mammoth proportions

No-one on that night was more eloquent than Thomas’ 17 year old brother, Stuart. In an inspired speech he talked about his family’s sentence – one they would carry for life. A sentence best described as “the lost opportunity for future memories” of his brother.

“It’s time to change,” he said quite simply. “Australia is an alcoholic – we need to rethink the way we drink”

See: http://thomaskellyyouthfoundation.org.au/home for a complete video of Stuart’s speech.

The words of that young man were then amplified three fold as the Premier spoke. He didn’t claim all acts of domestic violence involved alcohol yet he cited it as a significant contributing factor and he called on sporting organisations nationally to take the lead and find suitable alternative sponsors to alcohol.

The move away from tobacco sponsorship by cricket all those year’s ago lead to an extraordinary change across our culture. Could cricket be our hero yet again?

Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione then presented the hard facts supporting what has been achieved to date – they were simply breathtaking.

  • 24% reduction in alcohol related violence across the State
  • extraordinary reductions in alcohol related violence in key hot spots between the hours of midnight and 6am with something like a 60% reduction in the hours between 3am and 6am.
  • Heads of A&E in neighbouring hospitals reporting that admissions and incidents had dropped from upwards of 12 a night to perhaps 1 each evening.

It simply isn’t arguable – these new laws are saving lives and there are young people sitting at home tonight thanks to their introduction.

And yet, even with all of this, there is concern: concern that the interests of big business in the form of alcohol manufacturers will be put before those of our kids and our community.

It’s interesting when someone holds a mirror to you and you see something so obvious that is was previously invisible. Stuart is right. Australia is an alcoholic. We have a relationship with a cold beer, a glass of wine or a rum that goes back way to far.

All night drinking though in any sort of venue is a relatively recent development. Not that long ago the only venue in Sydney that was open after 1pm was the “Bourbon ‘n Beefsteak” in the Cross and if you weren’t in there by 1am you didn’t get in.

Why is it then that we now accept this story that venues need to be open until the wee hours of the morning?

My parents always said “nothing good happens after midnight” – and in this case these results just go to show that, on this point, they were spot on.

To those that say the violence has simply moved well I think the solution there is pretty simple. Monitor it, and if the statistics show that to be true, expand the communities within which the new laws apply.

at the moment there is no statistical evidence to support ..(increased violence is other areas due to these changes laws) …, if through monitoring, we begin to see a significant shift then we will need to take action

As NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said, “in areas where we were seeing problems there is no doubt these laws have created not just a small change but a mammoth change.”

As to whether there has been flow over to other areas – “at the moment there is no statistical evidence to support this but, if through monitoring, we begin to see a significant shift, then we will need to take action.”

Perhaps that is the warning to the alcohol industry – be careful of the stories you spin lest they come back to give you a response you will be even less happy with.

Yours in stopping the tail from wagging the dog

Kylea

 

 

 

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