Australian teenagers against alcohol related violence

Over 1,000 teenagers in the Australian coastal city of Geelong have united to make a bold stand against the growth in alcohol related violence. The problem is now so prevalent that one in five Australians now claim to have suffered violence as a result of alcohol, or know a family member who has. In Australia’s most populated state, New South Wales, there has been a 7% increase in alcohol related violence in the last year alone.

Students from four local schools participated in the rally which they hope will send a strong message to a community which is trying to crackdown on alcohol fuelled violence. This comes in the wake of the tragic death of Nathan Alsop, a local footballer for the East Geelong Club, who was killed by a single strike from a teammate as they celebrated their championship victory with a customary cocktail of drinks.

Australia has long considered itself a credible rival to the established heavyweight boozers of Europe. For this reason, the Aussie city of Geelong is perhaps a surprising location for such a demonstration given that drinking is often associated with the Australia psyche.

Indeed, there seems to be a positively proud culture of drinking, one in which alcohol is associated with success. Sir John Robertson said “none of the men who in this country have left footprints behind them have been cold water men”. Certainly there appears to be modicum of truth in this; Edmond Barton Australia’s first federate leader was known for his drinking prowess, while their Prime Minister through the 1980’s, Bob Hawke, was  infamous for his drinking exploits (so much so that he made it into the Guinness book of records).

In the absence of an abundance of culture, the relatively young Aussie nation is perhaps most strongly symbolized by their sporting achievements, but even this bears the stamp of alcohol. After all their role models who wear the baggy green of the Australian cricket team represent their country around the world with “Victoria Bitter” emblazoned across their chest.

However it appears that there is now a younger generation keen to reverse the cultural norm of heavy drinking. Police records assert that at least 70% of crime is alcohol related. The regrettable relationship between alcohol and violence occurs because drinking increases compulsivity while reducing self-control, thus creating a dangerous recipe.  One only has to take a walk through any town centre on a Saturday night to witness the correlation between excessive amounts of alcohol and violent and intimidating behavior.

So what is the solution to arguably the greatest cultural problem facing our society today? Beyond the extreme of prohibition of alcohol, the answer would initially appear to lie in the greater regulation of alcohol. However, the UK government in recent years has appeared to favor deregulation of alcohol laws. The introduction of 24-hour drinking has failed to reverse the trend of increasing alcohol related violence. Since its introduction overall crime has fallen by just 1% but police have seen violent crime in the early hours increase by 25%. Although the government is yet to admit defeat over the matter it is clear that deregulation has failed.

Evidently the answer resides not in regulation but education. We should be educating our younger generation and encourage many drinkers to sobriety.  Education would help alleviate the problem of alcohol fuelled violence without penalizing responsible drinkers with the burdens of higher alcohol duty and restricted drinking hours. The traditional French laissez-faire approach to alcohol culture is admirable and should be held up as an example of how alcohol can be enjoyed relatively free of violence without over regulation. Encouragingly it appears from the large turnout in Geelong that many young adults appreciate the problem and are doing their utmost to bring about change.