Fewer alcohol outlets in harm hot spots key to reducing family violence

Friday 10 November, 2017

Alcohol Policy Coalition urges Victorian Government to follow NSW Coroner’s recommendation

The Alcohol Policy Coalition (APC) is calling on the Victorian Government to introduce an ‘alcohol harm zone’ policy to prevent or restrict new liquor licences in domestic violence hot spots.

It follows a similar recommendation made by the NSW Coroner in the Domestic Violence Death Review Team Report 2015-2017, released this week.

The experts at the APC, an alliance of 14 health and community bodies, say evidence shows that alcohol increases the frequency and severity of family violence. It contributes to 65,000 incidents each year, which is more than half of the family violence incidents attended by policei.

Victorian research has linked the high number of alcohol outlets in a neighbourhood to an increased rate of alcohol related family violenceii.

Alcohol harm zones would give the regulator the authority to reject or restrict new liquor licence applications in areas with high levels of alcohol related harms, including family violence, ambulance attendances, emergency department presentations and/or hospitalisations.

APC spokesperson and Uniting Church Victoria Director of Justice and International Mission Mark Zirnsak said there is consistent evidence that variations in the number of alcohol outlets can lead to changes in alcohol consumption and harmiii.

“Strong evidence links the aggressive pushing of alcohol by those who profit from its sale to increases in family violence, child maltreatment and health problems,” Dr Zirnsak said.

“These problems get worse when there is a concentration of alcohol outlets competing with each other to sell as much alcohol as possible in a community.

“Restricting the number of outlets within a local area can reduce harm through limiting competition between retailers and discounting, and reducing crowds that lead to higher incidences of violenceiv.”

The APC called for the introduction of an alcohol harm zone policy in its submission to the Victorian Government’s Liquor Act Review one year ago.

The review was to consider the role alcohol plays in family violence, in response to a recommendation of the Royal Commission into Family Violence.

The APC said the Victorian Government is yet to make any public announcements about the outcome of the review, despite the Terms of Reference being announced over 12 months ago.

“The time to act is now. Our government needs to take action to protect Victorian children, families and community from the devastating consequences of the aggressive pushing of alcohol by businesses only focused on making a buck regardless of the harm they cause,” Dr Zirnsak said.

“Alcohol is linked with three deaths and more than 100 hospitalisations every day in Victoriav, and the biggest tragedy is that while the government waits to take action, alcohol-fuelled family violence continues to rise and harm Victorian familiesvi.”

The alcohol harm zone policy was one of 43 recommendations made by the APC to the Victorian Government for amendments to the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998.

To view the APC submission or for further information visit http://www.alcoholpolicycoalition.org.au/our-work/liquor-act-review

- ENDS -

i Sutherland, P, McDonald, C & Millsteed, M 2016, Family violence, alcohol consumption and the likelihood of criminal offences, Crime Statistics Agency (Vic)
ii Livingston, M 2011, ‘A longitudinal analysis of alcohol outlet density and domestic violence’, Addiction, vol. 106, no. 5, pp. 919-25.
iii Babor, T, Caetano, R, Casswell, S, Edwards, G, Giesbrecht, N, Graham, K, Grube, J, Hill, L, Holder, H, Homel, R, Livingston, M, Österberg, E, Rehm, J, Room, R & Rossow, I 2010, Alcohol: No ordinary commodity, 2nd ed., Oxford University Press, p. 131.
iv Alcohol Concern 2012, Full to the brim? Alcohol Concern Cymru Briefing, Alcohol Concern
v Gao, C, Ogeil, R, & Lloyd, B 2014, Alcohol’s burden of disease in Australia, Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education and VicHealth in collaboration with Turning Point.
vi Sutherland, P, McDonald, C & Millsteed, M 2016, Family violence, alcohol consumption and the likelihood of criminal offences, Crime Statistics Agency (Vic)