Alcoholism linked to domestic violence: calls for strict government policy

HARM: Domestic violence is often linked to alcoholism.

HARM: Domestic violence is often linked to alcoholism.

THERE has been much disturbing news to think about recently, but this week I’ll focus on alcohol's devastating impact on children and families, which was revealed in a new report, The Hidden Harm.

Sadly, alcohol abuse is no stranger to us. White Australia’s foundation was after all a convict colony rife with it. Its pillars were the Four “Gs” of Grog, Guns, God and Gambling, exemplified in the Rum Corps, the Rum Rebellion, and the Rum Hospital (now the NSW Parliament building).

The 1914 to 1918 wartime prohibition measure of the early closing did not cut down alcohol consumption but instead resulted in the “Six O’ Clock Swill”, and probably contributed to our culture of binge drinking. And now the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) report includes the most comprehensive findings to date on alcohol-related family and domestic violence in Australia and presents a startling and confronting picture.

Alcohol is involved in up to two of every three domestic violence incidents and as many as half of all child-protection cases, depending on the state or territory.

Although these harms are “hidden”, the title of the report is something of a misnomer, because while these harms might way well be hidden, the harms are well known, so useful policies need to be not only researched, but then implemented. FARE has put forward some firm policy proposals.

The policy options include measures that focus on preventing such violence before it happens, intervening early to prevent further harm and ensuring adequate service responses for people most in need.

The policies take a public health approach – an approach successfully and extensively used in the alcohol harm-prevention field and one being increasingly applied to family and domestic violence frameworks.

However, useful though such policy development is, it is not a replacement for government action. Yet to date, the Australian government response to alcohol's implication in family violence has been grossly inadequate. 

They need to look at wider issues, and as the evidence mounts of the extent of alcohol harm in Australia, but also of the many sound and proven strategies for addressing those harms, it is now time for governments to act. 

- Ray Goodlass


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