In this week’s instalment of citizen journalism, we have included Chalk Hotel general manager, Jason Titman’s, response to the following question about alcohol-related violence, featured in Australian Hotelier Magazine’s 2010 Annual Industry Leaders Forum Jan/ Feb edition.
Q – Alcohol-related violence has been in the headlines all year, what do you believe is the cause of this – the patrons, the media, Australian drinking culture, venues, etc? What can be done to help to rectify this?
A – “The hotel industry is suffering due to misguided and biased journalism, which is leading desperate politicians to make decisions based on the direction being taken by the media. In part it is the industry’s fault as in my opinion our industry it is too ‘fractured’ as a result of too many industry bodies.
There is no doubt that alcohol should be regulated and that in some parts of our society it is having a negative impact. However, the vast majority of Australians partake in the responsible consumption of alcohol and I for one am getting tired of alcohol being portrayed as the purveyor of all problems in this country.
The culture of alcohol in Australia does need to change and I think we should look to the culture in many parts of Europe where they successfully manage the responsible consumption of alcohol. Let’s not forget the many years which the media in this country has associated alcohol with success of every kind and they have been taking millions of dollars from the industry in advertising. I think the media’s biased and misguided approach at present (in a desperate bid to appeal to the public) is appalling and the lowest form or journalism.
The per head consumption of alcohol in Australia has decreased by more than 20 percent in the last ten years. More than 75 per cent of alcohol in Australia is consumed off licensed premises, with less than 25 percent of serious assaults occurring on licensed premises, thus making licensed premises actually safer than the rest of the community. When was the last time we saw the media or politicians quoting these kind of numbers?
Unfortunately, many of the entertainment precincts in our major cities have become ‘victims of their own success’. I know there are dichotomous arguments around this topic and there is logic in concentrating entertainment venues in a precinct, however creating an environment where 20,000 plus young individuals are together does have some negative issues.
There has been an increase in violence and anti-social behaviour in the community generally. Road rage, shopping centre rage, violence between parents at children’s sporting events and bullying in our schools. Hotels are merely a reflection of society, yet the media and government seem to be directing all of their blame at operators.
The problem with alcohol-related violence has not arisen overnight and will not be fixed overnight. In short, I believe we need to look at the following solutions:
• Understand it is going to take time to change the culture of alcohol consumption in Australia.
• Investigate some of the models and approaches operating in parts of Europe.
• Increase individual accountability and responsibility for their actions. It is not alcohol’s fault that someone behaves in an anti-social manner.
• Demand our governments to pass a law than bans anyone convicted of an offence on a licensed property from entering a licensed premise for a substantial period of time and fine them a substantial sum of money.
• Develop programs aimed at high school students that encourage self-development and confidence building, alcohol education should be a part of this program. Let’s not forget the huge impact the so called ‘Recreational Party Drugs’ are having on our youth.”
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