Bar-crowd scene

Thank goodness someone in our community cares enough

Many GrogWatch readers will have seen the proposal over the weekend by the Salvation Army to drive drunks home from Melbourne’s city district for free.

The Salvos have proposed that their Youth Street Teams, who roam the CBD in the early hours every weekend offering water, lollipops and rubber thongs to revellers, could be called on a new 24-hour crisis number, 1800COMMUNITY. As long as the drunken people are not violent, volunteers will drive drunks home instead of police having to deal with them.

The proposal was met with divided opinions in the comments sections of the newspapers and when it was posted on the Australian Drug Foundation’s Facebook page. Some people welcomed the time this would save police to do real policing instead of dealing with drunks. Some said it enables people to continue unacceptable and dangerous behaviour. Some said it isn’t fair for Salvos volunteers to have to deal with the problem.

GrogWatch applauds the Salvos’ compassionate approach because we know that people are vulnerable when they are drunk. We know that being drunk significantly increases your risk of being a perpetrator and a victim of violence. The Salvos know this and have looked at a very practical solution to reduce the risk of intoxicated people coming to harm on our city streets.

Thank goodness someone in our community cares enough to volunteer driving drunks home.

Isn’t it time our politicians also showed leadership on this issue? Isn’t this what we expect them to do? We do know how to fix this issue. The evidence is clear and irrefutable. So let’s give the Salvos a break and ensure our politicians provide the leadership on this issue to solve it.

The Victorian Alcohol Policy Coalition (APC) in its 2014 election manifesto has identified the changes needed in Victoria. These include:

1)            WHEN WE DRINK
Address availability and alcohol-related violence
Introduce 3am as the latest time for serving alcohol in pubs and clubs
Maintain and extend the freeze on granting new late night licences
Introduce 10pm as the latest time for packaged liquor sales

2)            HOW WE DRINK
Promote safer consumption of alcohol
Tighten controls on the availability of packaged liquor
Prohibit activities which encourage irresponsible drinking
Introduce a responsible service requirement for secondary supply

3)            WHERE WE DRINK
Minimise harm through liquor licensing reform
Tighten controls on liquor licensing including tailoring approaches to liquor licensing in high risk areas.
Prioritise harm minimisation in liquor licensing
Consider transport options in assessing licence applications

4)            DRINK MESSAGES
Protect children and young people from alcohol advertising
Restrict alcohol advertising from places and times where children and young people may be exposed.
Support advertising restrictions with a sustained social marketing campaign about responsible drinking.

Support evidence-based policy
Commence collecting alcohol sales data in order to evaluate policies.

GrogWatch supports the APC in calling for all the parties in Victoria to commit to tackling alcohol harm and showing leadership in this area.

Regular GrogWatch readers will know the well-worn prevention river analogy about looking upstream to prevent people coming to harm rather than trying to deal with the effects downstream.

We need leadership, we need to go upstream. It’s not sustainable for us to rely on people like the Salvos to clean up the mess and carnage that our boozy culture is causing.

Do you support these measures to prevent alcohol-related harm?