Di Mahoney, director, Byron Youth Service
I am writing as an advocate for young people in our community. The current levels of alcohol-related harm in Byron Bay – including violence, sexual assault, accidents etc – are not only unacceptable because they far outstrip the state and national averages, but also because many of them are preventable, and affect the future generation of our community – our young people.
The issue of alcohol-related harm is a vexing problem being faced by many communities, and there are multi-layered responses required in order to reduce the dangers associated with alcohol misuse. However, there is a large body of research clearly showing that limiting the supply (through density management and trading hours), limiting the advertising, promotion and discounting of alcohol, can achieve a significant reduction in harm.
I believe there is more research to be done on the underlying culture of binge drinking in our country. Examining it, challenging it and changing it would also help to reduce the harms associated with pre-loading and bingeing. We have a long way to go on that front; however, BYS is committed to doing its best to encourage young people to make good choices, to Cringe the Binge and take it easy.
BYS staff, who work at the coalface with young people, too often have heard about, seen, and supported young people involved in alcohol-related incidents. We are always focused on programs that will help achieve our vision that ‘young people are safe, happy and valued’ in our community. It’s also why we are always fundraising to support programs such as Street Cruise that we believe are essential to creating a safety net for young people, and why we are heavily involved in being part of co-ordinated responses during peak times such as Schoolies, festivals and the new Summer Safety Committee.
I hope everyone with an interest in creating a safe and happy community will attend the Last Drinks @ 12 community forum on August 24 to learn more about this issue – to hear firsthand from a range of experts – and consider some of the ways we might work together to create a safe place for young people growing up in, and visiting, our community. It’s not easy but it is worth it.