Alcohol-related Violence – Who’s to Blame?

By Rhys Woosnam

Adam Foster laid beaten and bloody in a gutter in the suburb of Broadbeach. An eight on two assault, him and his friend were no chance. The cowards fled the scene almost immediately. This was an all too familiar sight in the nightclub district. The most shocking part is that police were in clear vision of the incident, not even bothering to call an ambulance.

He was another victim of the dangerous mix of alcohol and violence.

We must ask ourselves, what causes these brutal attacks and is the Government doing enough to stop them?

The effects of alcohol-related violence in Queensland permeate all levels of society and cause significant physical as well as mental damage. According to the Australian Institute of Criminology in report entitled Alcohol-Related Assault: Time and Place, 30.6% of adults have experienced some form of violence that has been brought on through alcohol consumption.

Adam’s sister Kelly was shocked at the lack of involvement by the local law enforcement. “The police was on the scene but did not intervene at all; they did not even call an ambulance. My brother’s girlfriend called the ambulance and a long while after the two were taken to hospital and stayed overnight.”

She believes that if the policemen and women had responded properly to the incident, her brother would have not been left with serious injuries.

“Mentally it affected me that the Broadbeach police witnessed the event and still did nothing. I have the highest level of respect for the defence forces but when it comes to Broadbeach and Surfers Paradise police at night they become arrogant.”

Broadbeach and Surfers Paradise. These two places are the premier suburbs in the Gold Coast for nightclub entertainment and play host to a multitude of young people who drink the night away with reckless abandon. They are, along with Fortitude Valley in Brisbane, major locations for the brutal violence that is occurring amongst the young revellers.

The Valley in particular was the scene of a horrendous attack just a few months ago. A young man who was extremely drunk, punched a female nightclub owner in the head, this then led to a bouncer king hitting the man, leaving him unconscious. “THIS is the face of the shocking cycle of drunken violence that fills the state’s emergency wards with assault victims every weekend.” Lara Lauth wrote in her article in the Sunday Mail about the assault.

The Queensland Government have realised how serious of an impact these attacks have taken on the state and recently published a report that detailed their inquiry into alcohol-related violence.

At 105 pages it is incredibly extensive and covers all factors including the extended opening hours of many nightclubs, parental education to children about the dangers of alcohol and the police presence in these areas as well as sufficient public transport.

The report was chaired by MP Barbara Stone and was kick-started in response to the sharp rise in alcohol-related violence. A number of risk-prevention measures were suggested to the government, the majority of which are now incorporated into the Queensland nightclub scene.

A major factor in the escalating violence is the extremely late opening hours of some facilities. Adam’s incident occurred at approximately 2am. At this time the majority of nightclubs are not only still open, but are still allowing customers into the facility. The 3am lockout is a difficult concept, in some cases it contributes to the violence but in other cases it allows nightclub staff to curb violence and keep people inside and much safer.

The nightclub’s role in preventing violence is incredibly important. Or at least you would think so.

Six prominent nightclubs on the Gold Coast were contacted for their opinion on alcohol-related violence. Five of them gave no reply but the sixth one had an interesting response. They said in an email that “We at (name retracted) believe that violence involving alcohol is not our responsibility and should be left to the Queensland Police to deal with.” Surely the people who supply the attackers with the alcohol should burden some of the blame or at the very least should help to curb the amount of violence?

All levels of Government have been compiling reports and creating initiatives in the community to reduce the risk of violence. The most successful idea in Queensland that stemmed from the previously mentioned report is the Drink Safe Precincts in Townsville, Fortitude Valley and the Gold Coast.

The Drink Safe Precinct initiative was launched as a two-year trial in December 2010 and has seen a significant improvement in the safety of nightclub patrons. The main changes to the areas included in the precinct is an increased police presence, a number of water stations and safe zones and most importantly sufficient public transport till late at night.

The lack of public transport in previous years had added to the danger of leaving a club after a big night of drinking.

According to the 2010-11 Queensland Police Report “As at 30 June 2011, 9397 additional police hours have been worked in the precincts and 2289 arrests made. Police also intervened on over 1090 occasions to prevent conflict and issued 1 269 move-on directions.” The significant jump in policing around problem areas has been a factor in reducing attacks but there is still an alarming amount of violence prevalent and not just here in Queensland.

Young man Thomas Kelly was killed three months ago as a result of an attack in the infamous Kings Cross. He was spending his first night out after turning 18 and was the victim of an unprovoked king hit. If brutal incidents like this are still happening in Australia, then the Government and the community as a whole is obviously not doing enough.

When interviewed about alcohol-fuelled violence last month, Minister for Health and Aging Mark Butler said that there is no single solution to this problem. “There is the question about responsible serving of alcohol within licensed venues. I do think there is a change in the trading hours of hotels, certainly in the twenty years since I was a young person. And what that has done is it has led to people spilling out of venues very, very late often at four, five am. And although there is still violence within licensed venues, more security in those venues meant that the violence is increasingly happening on the streets.”

The fact that a politician high up in the food chain can see what is wrong with alcohol-violence and yet it still occurs on a regular occasion is very worrying. It seems as no matter what to Government does to curb violence among drunken patrons, it will still plague society.

When it comes down to the core of the situation, the only person we can really blame is the attacker themselves. There are countless studies on what makes a person commit violent acts whilst intoxicated but we still don’t have a concrete answer. It means that the community will continue to face an uphill battle.

Alcohol can add enjoyment to social outings, but it comes with a significant risk. The Government will continue to introduce attempts at ending alcohol-related violence, and they may cause a reduction in incidents. The truth is that stories like Thomas Kelly and Adam Foster will unfortunately continue to occur. The best way to lower the risk of being attacked is to simply drink responsibly and if faced with a potentially violent situation, just walk away.

References

“Alcohol-fuelled Violence; Cubbie Station; Gonski Funding.” Interview.Hansard. Parliament Of Australia, 5 Sept. 2012. Web. 10 Oct. 2012.http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Hansard

Lauth, Lara, and David Murray. “Nightclub on Frontline of Alcohol-fuelled Violence.” Sunday Mail [Brisbane] 29 July 2012: n. pag. Print.

Queensland Police Service. “Annual Report 2010-11.” 2010/2011 Annual Report. N.p., 2011. Web. 16 Oct. 2012.http://www.police.qld.gov.au/services/reportsPublications/annualReport/1011.htm

Stone, Barbara, Andrew Cripps, Jarrod Bleijie, Steve Kilburn, Aidan McLindon, Ray Stevens, Murray Watt, and Dean Wells. Inquiry into Alcohol-Related Violence – Final Report. Rep. Legislative Assembly of Queensland, Mar. 2010. Web. 5 Oct. 2012.http://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/documents/committees/LJSC/2009/alcohol-related-violence/Report74.pdf

Teece, Michael, and Paul Williams. Alcohol-Related Assault: Time and Place. Rep. N.p.: Australian Institute of Criminology, 2000. Australian Institute of Criminology. Oct. 2000. Web. 11 Oct. 2012.http://www.aic.gov.au/en/publications/current%20series/tandi/161-180/tandi169.aspx

Van Den Broeke, Leigh. “Kings Cross Locals Mourn Teen Thomas Kelly after King-hit Death.” The Daily Telegraph [Sydney] 11 July 2012: n. pag. Print.

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