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Senator's call for inquiry into reducing alcohol-related violence must be supported

February 2016

Australia’s largest non-government provider of public hospitals – St Vincent’s Health Australia – has welcomed Senator Glenn Lazarus’ call for a Senate Inquiry into reducing alcohol-related violence and called on the major parties and independents to support the proposal.

St Vincent’s Health – which operates St Vincent’s public hospitals in Melbourne’s Fitzroy and Sydney’s Darlinghurst – has a long history of dealing with the entire spectrum of alcohol-related harm and violence, and by virtue of their locations, the horrific alcohol-fuelled injuries that occur in the entertainment precincts of both cities.

Most recently, its Sydney hospital has played a leading role in advocating for – and supporting – the NSW Government’s reform package to reduce alcohol-related violence in the CBD and Kings Cross.

St Vincent Health Australia’s CEO, Toby Hall, said his organisation warmly supported the Senator’s proposal.

“We support the Senator’s call for an inquiry into alcohol-related violence. We believe Australians are ready to have a conversation about the societal changes needed to reduce alcohol’s negative effects on our community. They’re looking for leadership from their federal and state politicians,” said Mr Hall.

“All the evidence points overwhelmingly to the fact Australia has an alcohol problem.

“For example, one-in-seven presentations to the Emergency Departments of public hospitals on Australia Day were alcohol-related. That’s an extraordinarily disturbing statistic.

“The time has never been better to put this issue under the spotlight: the Senior Australian of the Year, St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney’s Professor Gordian Fulde, has made reducing alcohol-related harm and violence his chief focus over the next 12 months; we’ve seen the NSW and Queensland governments take courageous steps at tackling the problem.

“The Australian public are shocked and disgusted by the constant examples of alcohol-related violence they see in the media – most recently the tragic death of Cole Miller in Queensland. They’re ready for greater action.

“Our two major tertiary public hospitals – St Vincent’s in Melbourne’s Fitzroy and St Vincent’s in Sydney’s Darlinghurst – have long been on the frontline of this problem. We see the worst of it and believe the issue must be pursued.

“Given the damage we witness with alcohol, we’d be in favour of an inquiry going beyond just violence.

“Alcohol abuse or intoxication is heavily implicated in violence – both domestic and public – but it’s also linked with a range of chronic diseases, including cancer; mental illness; developmental problems in children; unemployment; financial problems and poverty; industrial and work accidents; homelessness; and suicide.

“Alcohol harm can’t be reduced through a single policy initiative, campaign or level of government. To achieve it will take constructive dialogue between governments, businesses, the community and health sectors, and the broader public, along with an integrated approach over many years.

“A Senate inquiry is a good place to start canvassing the range of voices and proposals that must be brought together to tackle the problem.

“We call on all parties and independents in the Senate to support Senator Lazarus’ proposal when it is introduced on Wednesday,” said Mr Hall.