Call to reduce alcohol-related violence

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The Justice and International Mission (JIM) unit of the Commission for Mission has issued a joint postcard action calling for the Victorian Government to place restrictions on liquor outlets to reduce harm and improve community safety. This follows the example of Newcastle, NSW, where such measures have resulted in a reduction in alcohol-related assaults.

The postcard, supported by the Australian Drug Foundation, the Salvation Army and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, calls for liquor outlets to be required to shut at 3am and stop serving alcohol at 2:30am. It asks that packaged liquor outlets not sell alcohol after 11pm.

“Alcohol is responsible for the preventable deaths of more than 600 Victorians each year,” JIM unit  director Dr Mark Zirnsak said.

“Thousands more require hospital treatment for assault, serious falls, alcohol poisoning and stomach pumping, attempted suicides and road trauma.

“We want Victoria to implement evidence-based actions to reduce these harms.”

In July 2007, NSW Police lodged a complaint with the NSW Liquor Administration Board against four Newcastle liquor outlets on the grounds they were causing “undue disturbance of the quiet and good order of the neighbourhood”.

This complaint was made against a backdrop of considerable community dissatisfaction with high levels of alcohol-related violence in and around the Newcastle CBD. In November 2007 the police added a further 11 liquor outlets in Newcastle to the original complaint.

In March 2008, the Liquor Administration Board required 14 of the outlets to stop allowing any new patrons to enter their premises after 1am. Of these venues, three were required to shut at 2.30am, and the remaining 11 venues at 3am.

Licensees were required to ensure that a supervisor was on the premise from 11pm until closing, with the sole purpose of monitoring responsible service of alcohol. This included restrictions on drinks with high alcohol content and limits to the number of drinks sold to patrons at one time. The sale of alcohol had to finish 30 minutes before the venue closed.

Analysis of the impact of these restrictions found there were approximately 133 less alcohol-related assaults in Newcastle in the year following the restrictions.

In the four years prior to the restrictions on the liquor outlets, 17 per cent of all non-domestic violence assaults occurred between 3am and 6am. In the year following the introduction of the restrictions, the proportion of such assaults occurring between 3am and 6am dropped to 6 per cent.

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