Road toll and smoking campaigns good precedents for the fight against alcohol-fuelled violence
There is widespread concern about the recent
deaths from alcohol-fuelled violence. There is the risk, however,
that in the same way the gun debate in the US flares after every
shooting then fades away without change, a similar pattern will
emerge in Australia.
And as surely as each death fades in our collective memory,
another young man will be king-hit in the street and end up in a
critical condition in hospital or fatally injured.
In the wake of the violence there have been calls for reforms of
the sentencing laws for alcohol-fuelled violence and for changes to
the curfew for licensed premises. There have also been impassioned
pleas by emergency doctors and parents for people to drink
There has also been an overwhelming frustration and despair that
this is an issue for which there is no answer. However, Australia
has been faced with similar public health issues that at the time
seemed insurmountable, that we have collectively tackled and
defeated and we can learn from these to tackle alcohol and its
impact on our lives.
A rising road toll in the 1960s and 1970s prompted many calls for
driver behaviour change, essentially to no avail until the
community and community leaders stood up to be counted and called a
stop to the carnage. Now road deaths are a fraction of what they
were and are still falling.
What changed was community commitment: we had had enough; we did
not want to live in a society where you had to run the gauntlet
with death every time you crossed the street or got into your
As a society we committed to a strategic introduction of a road
safety program based on better cars, better roads and better
road-user behaviour, all regulated by legislation that was
Victorian Premier Denis Napthine wrote recently in a newspaper
article that "the Coalition government will never rest until the
road toll is zero". That is the type of government commitment
needed in the fight to curb alcohol-fuelled violence.
Critical to the success of this long-term strategic approach was
the continual engagement of the public in the debate, ensuring that
the community became a stakeholder of the policies underpinning the
road safety response. Road safety advertising campaigns and the
media in all its forms were key agents in the maintenance of this
public debate, and this continues to be the case today.
Preventing innocent deaths from alcohol-fuelled violence is no
more difficult than preventing your children being killed by
speeding drivers. However, putting a stop to this violence takes
more than simple outrage at each new event.
References and further information