“A coalition of alcohol experts including doctors and researchers have accused federal, state and territory governments of failing to properly acknowledge the role of alcohol in family violence.
The Council of Australian Governments two-day summit on family violence will begin on today in Brisbane, prompting the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education to issue a statement of concern.”
Among the 21 signatories are family violence experts, emergency department doctors and alcohol researchers and the Chief Executive Officer of the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress Aboriginal Corporation and former NACCHO CEO Donna Ah Chee.
” But it is clear that the overwhelming majority of people who experience such violence are women.
“The most prevalent effect is on mental health, including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and substance abuse.
“There are also serious physical health effects including injury, somatic disorders, chronic disorders and chronic pain, gastro-intestinal disorders, gynaecological problems, and increased risk of sexually transmitted infections.
As a community, we must stamp out violence against Australian women, and bring an end to all forms of family and domestic violence, whoever the victim.
“This will involve commitment and coordination from governments; support services; the related professions, especially medical, health, and legal; neighbourhoods; and families – backed by adequate funding.”
AMA President, Dr Michael Gannon see full press release below
“These policy interventions have the full support by frontline services and health professionals who have long been advocating for preventive action.
We know what works, and armed with that evidence we now need the political will to introduce evidence-based measures that look beyond headlines and election cycles and will be effective in saving lives and reducing the damage wrought by alcohol behind closed doors,”
General Practitioner and public health medical officer at the Central Australian Aboriginal Health Congress Dr John Boffa
“We fear that the forum today and the future discussions will continue to ignore alcohol’s role in family violence and fail to embrace strategies to address the issue,” the statement said.
Fare Statement of Concern
“We know from our research that the role of alcohol in family violence cannot be ignored. Alcohol contributes to between 23 to 65% of domestic incidents reported to police and between 15 to 47% of child abuse cases reported in Australia.
“More than a third of intimate-partner homicides involve alcohol consumption by the perpetrator.”
The foundation’s chief executive, Michael Thorn, said he expected New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research to be released in a few weeks’ time to show a significant and immediate drop in family violence as a direct result of the state’s lockout and last-drinks laws and tightened bottle-shop closing hours.
“There don’t seem to be any alcohol or mental health experts attending this domestic violence summit, even though we know from research their significant contribution to family violence,” Thorn said.
“We suspect the third national family violence plan will be launched at this summit and there has being very little engagement with alcohol experts about that plan. So we fear that there is unlikely to be anything of anything substance in that plan in relation to alcohol that can be done to address family violence.”
This included reforming the way alcohol is taxed, restricting the sale of alcohol to reduce its availability, and tackling the sexualisation of alcohol through advertising, he said.
Among the signatories to the statement were professor of social work at the University of Melbourne and domestic violence researcher, Cathy Humphreys, and the chief executive officer of the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress Aboriginal Corporation, Donna Ah Chee.
The chief executive officer of Domestic Violence Victoria, Fiona McCormack, who was not a signatory to the statement, said she would be surprised if governments weren’t taking the role of alcohol in family violence seriously. “My experience of the federal government and in fact all governments is that they’re working from the current evidence,” McCormack said.
“It’s really important to consider the issue of alcohol and the impact it has and, in particular, the way it can exacerbate the impact of the violence. However, I’d be concerned if this was about closing down the argument to only focus on alcohol, because we need a plurality of expertise and strategies to address family violence.”
But a signatory to the statement, Assoc Prof David Caldicott, an emergency consultant at Calvary hospital in Canberra,said governments were not taking the role of alcohol “an an agent in harm” seriously.
“I completely understand the perspective of those who are concerned that focusing on alcohol takes away from the role of the responsibility of the perpetrator,” he said.
“Intoxication is never an excuse for violence. But I don’t think focusing on alcohol dilutes anything. You can debate whether alcohol is associated with or causes family violence, but there is no dispute that it is heavily associated with it.”