GrogWatch is impressed by people who promote community action on Australia’s drinking issues as they have become too big for one government, organisation or individual to tackle alone. This week we highlight the work of a dedicated parent who, through initiatives such as ‘Keep Em Safe’, is working to reduce underage drinking.
Helen Torpy is a community member from Lara near Geelong in Victoria who fights hard to protect young people from alcohol-related harms caused by early drinking. Concerned by the widespread acceptance of underage drinking, including by parents of her own children’s friends, Helen decided to take some action.
Helen’s concern is well founded. As reported in the Geelong Advertiser, Deakin University researcher Professor John Toumbourou has found that 35 per cent of year 6 children in the Geelong district have drunk a glass of alcohol. Two years later in year 8 a majority (55 per cent) of students have drunk alcohol which places the students at greater risk of developing long-term drinking problems.
Helen began her work by supporting Bruce Clark in his successful struggle to convince the Victorian Government to adopt a secondary supply law – making it illegal to supply alcohol to underage drinkers on private premises without parental consent. As part of that campaign Helen organised forums at Lara Secondary College at which Geoff Munro of the Australian Drug Foundation and Bruce Clark alerted parents to the need for greater control over alcohol and lobbied for the secondary supply law.
Using her own resources Helen created the Keep Em Safe website to continue campaigning for parental and community awareness and action. Over time her efforts were recognised by the Lara Lions Club that supplied some funding for the website and for Helen to continue her work. Keep Em Safe is now an incorporated organisation.
Helen is also working on a bigger campaign called Smart Generation: Brains for Life with the support of several community resources. She has linked up with Communities That Care and the Geelong campus of Deakin University to run the campaign in the local high school and the wider community. Brains for Life is a new program that educates and supports junior students at Lara Secondary College to combat pressures to drink alcohol. Supporting the program is a billboard on busy road in Lara which asks parents to ‘Think before you give em a drink’.
GrogWatch congratulates Helen for her terrific effort over a long period to make the community safer for young people.
If you know of another story where someone is fighting to prevent alcohol-related harm in their community, let us know by writing in the comments section below.