Last week the Banned Drinkers Register (BDR) trial rolled out into the Goldfields area of WA, the third region to welcome the trial in the state.

The Goldfields region joins the Pilbara and Kimberley regions in requiring all customers to show photo ID when buying takeaway alcohol. The ID is run through a system that detects whether the customer is on the BDR, and if so, prohibits them from completing the purchase.

WA Racing and Gaming Minister, Tony Buti, explained: “We know that the availability of alcohol is a leading factor in preventing the destructive behaviours that are associated with alcohol abuse.

“The BDR trial is one of a number of initiatives designed to protect the vulnerable and provide support for those facing alcohol addiction – it provides a targeted response to alcohol abuse through controlling access to takeaway liquor.”

As it has been in previous regions, the BDR scheme has been welcomed by the industry in the Goldfields area and commended for its targeted approach with the ability to connect problem drinkers with resources that can help them. Industry organisations like Retail Drinks Australia, the Liquor Stores Association of WA (LSA WA) and the Australian Hotels Association of WA (AHA WA) have long been supporters of the BDR, since it was first introduced to the Pilbara a little over a year ago. These groups say that their members have welcomed this latest expansion with open arms.

Michael Waters, CEO of Retail Drinks, said: “Licensees in the Goldfields region have been supportive of the BDR and quick to adopt the necessary technology required to implement the scanning of licences against the BDR.

“The progressive roll-out of the BDR across different areas of WA and staggered times has helped ensure a successful roll out of this system to individual communities, including the Goldfields.”

Peter Peck, CEO of LSA WA, said retailers are supportive of the BDR because they see how it can help problem drinkers in their communities. Many also hope that the BDR will help put a focus on what is spurring a lot of alcohol-related harm in WA – sly grogging.

“We’re hoping that when [the BDR] shows we are refusing the people who are troublesome with alcohol, and yet they’re still obtaining alcohol, that will be the catalyst for the Commissioner of Police to realise that all bad alcohol doesn’t come from the legal liquor store. There is a massive trade in sly and illicit grog,” Peck said.

Community reception

For the most part, when a BDR trial has been rolled out into a new region, the community has welcomed it like the industry has, and this support increases over time as more people can be placed on the BDR, including those that voluntarily place themselves on it.

Upon launch in the Goldfields region, the WA government noted 34 venues that the BDR would apply to, with 14 people already on the register. In more established BDR trial regions this number is larger, with 69 people on the Pilbara register and 68 in the Kimberley.

Waters said: “Whilst we are aware that there are currently fewer residents on the BDR in the Goldfields region thus far, we would expect that, as we’ve seen occur in other WA regions as well as in the Northern Territory in recent years since the introduction of their BDR program, awareness, support and adoption amongst the community will steadily increase over time.”

Peck said the BDR has gone from strength to strength in the community since it began, and believes there will be positive results ahead for the Goldfields communities.

“We are seeing communities come together and ensure problem drinkers are targeted but also given access to services to help with their problem around alcohol,” Peck said.

“The issues are no different [in the Goldfields] to what we have in parts of the Pilbara and Kimberley. We believe the BDR could go a long way in combatting some of the well documented anti-social issues they’re experiencing at the moment.”

“We think it could be a strong deterrent for problem drinkers, and it could be a vehicle in helping rebuild some solid relationships across those communities.”

Independent review

As the BDR approached one year of operation in the Pilbara, lots of commentary arose questioning the ability of the BDR to fight the alcohol-related harm it aimed to tackle. It’s now half way through a two year trial in that region, which is also awaiting the preliminary results of an independent review to measure such abilities.

One argument has been calling for stricter and more blanket measures in place of the targeted BDR approach, and has the vocal support of the likes of the WA Police Commissioner. In response to this argument, the industry has called for patience, to allow the BDR to make its impact and be improved upon to see the best possible results.

Waters noted it was important to understand that this is not a straight forward issue, and one that required a balanced and informed approach.

“How governments, industry and communities address alcohol-related harm is a very complex issue, with the BDR being one of a number of tools at the government’s disposal to help address alcohol-related issues in targeted communities, and the small proportion of individuals who continually misuse and abuse alcohol,” Waters said.

“Retail Drinks advocates for balanced, evidence-based and targeted policies, rather than ‘whole of population’ control measures to reduce alcohol-related harms caused by excessive alcohol consumption. It’s important that regulatory measures do not penalise the vast majority of Australians who drink responsibly and are already making informed and sensible choices about their drinking behaviour.”

Peck said blanket restrictions that take all alcohol away from everyone don’t address the core reason that a problem exists. Understanding that problem drinkers were using alcohol to self-medicate was key to getting people the right help they need, which would see lasting change in the community.

“No child should be too afraid to go to their own home, and I’m hoping that the BDR will take at least a small step towards removing alcohol from parents that abuse it and get them back on the right track,” Peck explained.

All these points have been noted as why its important to wait for the independent review report, expected to come next month, which will uncover the issues with the BDR and allow them to be fixed.

In the meantime, Waters said: “Whilst the BDR has only been in place for a relatively short period of time in WA, we are pleased with the results of the trials to date and believe that its continued use will assist in reducing levels of alcohol-related harm across these communities.

“However, to ensure maximum effectiveness of the BDR in addressing the harms associated with problem drinkers there is a strong argument to support the policy measure being applied across all licence categories and licensed environments.”

Another suggestion to increase the effectiveness of the BDR comes from Peck, who said it needs to be easier for police to add people onto the list, especially if alcohol had been determined to be a factor in committing crimes.

“An example is in Scarborough, a suburb with a nightclub strip. In one weekend, they put more people on a barring or prohibition order than the WA police have put in the BDR in the Pilbara for the entire time it’s been running… there needs to be a bigger push to populate the list,” Peck said.

Brydie Allen

Brydie Allen is the Editor of National Liquor News. She has been with Food and Beverage Media since 2019, when she joined the company as a journalist across National Liquor News, Bars & Clubs, The...

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