Australia’s love affair with alcohol under attack

By CHLOE COBURN

Australia needs to undergo a significant cultural shift to reduce alcohol-related family violence, a women’s family violence support worker says.

WIRE employee Karen Edwards said domestic violence was more widespread in society than widely believed, with partner alcohol abuse being a big problem for those suffering.

Alcohol and Drug Foundation Content Developer Laura Bajurny said she suspected the extent of alcohol-related incidents were “underreported”.

WIRE employee Karen Edwards said Australia’s relationship with alcohol is “toxic”. Picture: Chloe Coburn.

She contributed the lack of societal change to Australians not wanting “to take [the issue] seriously”.

A report, published by independent, not-for-profit alcohol researcher FARE in 2015, found alcohol-related family violence made up between 23 per cent and 65 per cent of all family violence incidents reported to police.

These figures are indicative of a greater national crisis, Ms Edwards said.

“There’s a toxic relationship [between] the community and alcohol,” she said.

When alcohol was present in intimate partner violence, a physical or psychological injury was more likely to result, a 2016 study found. The research was undertaken by government-funded National Drug Law Enforcement Research Fund and surveyed more than 5000 people Australia-wide.

The report said alcohol-related family violence was commonly systemic and intergenerational, and emphasised alcohol’s ability to increase the severity of domestic violence incidents.

Despite recent government action tackling family violence, Ms Edwards said a “collaborative” approach with the broader public was required to see genuine change.

“Here on the ground, there hasn’t been a lot of change,” she said.

“[Alcohol’s] a cool thing to do, it’s a way of escaping, of fixing a problem. Really, it’s just creating more problems.”

Ms Bajurny said people would find it difficult to shift their consumption of alcohol to protect those most vulnerable.

“There is a level at which policy can only do so much, and it has to be about significant social change,” she said.