Drink Tank

Alcohol, young people, parents & the law

I’m a mother, a health student, a cat nut, and an advocate.

When someone asks me why I choose to spend my spare time advocating to change secondary supply laws in WA, my response is simple: If I can prevent one young person from being entrapped in the binge drinking culture of Australia, I have succeeded.

If I can help educate parents about the dangers associated with underage drinking, and help them understand it is simply not a “rite of passage” I am doing the right thing.

Secondary supply legislation is one opportunity we have to educate our parents and our young people about choices, about self-esteem, and about being able to say no.

These laws can help parents manage parties and gatherings of young people at home without the fear of alcohol intoxication being the dominant force.

No one has the right to give our underage children alcohol without parental permission. No one has the right to encourage dangerous drinking patterns in our young people. Dangerous drinking patterns cause so much grief.

When we’re young we’re forming our habits. Our girls will eventually grow up and perhaps have children of their own. We don’t want them to struggle with controlling entrenched alcohol habits when they are pregnant and child rearing.

Our young men need to be confident in their decisions and able to say no to alcohol if they feel like it. This week, my own 20 year old son said to me “I chose not to drink at the gathering last night mum because I wanted to have my wits about me. The gathering was full of groups of people I didn’t know and I felt uncomfortable letting my guard down.”

Unfortunately later that night one of his friends was fatally assaulted by a gate crasher almost twice his age. Our young men do need their wits about them whilst having fun.

My son was 100% correct. The fallout from this young man’s death is unimaginable, rippling, devastating and unnecessary.

At this point in time I can’t say how much alcohol played a role in the situation, but I reiterate the choice my own son made not to consume. This may well have prevented him from becoming involved in the situation, as he had left the gathering ten minutes before the incident and the passing of a young man in the prime of his life.

The secondary supply campaign is still continuing in WA. The review recommendations have been delayed for the second time until November 2013. I have been advised that the review committee have a significant number of submissions they are looking into and I have noted that the issue of secondary supply is featured in many of them.

Since I last wrote for Drink Tank things certainly have not slowed down. I received a call from Tony Abbott’s office prior to the election to say they are fully supportive of secondary supply legislation being introduced into WA, and was told they would call Minister Waldron’s office to express that support.

Recently I spoke to Dr Anthony Lynham about his campaign against alcohol-related violence. Dr Lynham is an oral and maxillofacial surgeon in Queensland who repairs the faces of those who are victims of alcohol fuelled violence.

After talking to Dr Lynham I decided to write to all the branches of the Australian Dental Association to ask for support in regards to the introduction of secondary supply legislation.

I have received a response from both the WA branch and the SA branch who have confirmed they have written to the Review Committee in support. I was pleased that the SA branch came on board because they are in a great position to lobby the SA Government also.

I am aware of political movement in SA on this issue and really hope it comes into the spotlight soon.

I also have written to Simon Corbell MLA Attorney General for the ACT about the WA campaign for secondary supply and the fact that ACT also does not have this legislation.

He replied saying that the purpose of the review of the ACT’s Liquor Act 2010 is to analyse the impact of the 2010 reforms on alcohol-related violence and anti-social behaviour, and on the health and well-being in the ACT community, and that secondary supply would be certainly assessed.

The Western Australian Council of State School Organisation (WACCSO) recently held a conference in WA where Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan was a guest speaker and spoke about secondary supply.

They did a survey at the conference where 99% supported the introduction of secondary supply and 94% of the people surveyed want WACCSO to lobby on their behalf.

I received correspondence from them last week saying they had sent a letter to Minister Waldron. I also received support from the Australian Health Promotion WA branch who recently wrote to the WA Liquor Act Review Committee.

Recently Oliver Peterson from 730 WA (ABC) interviewed me about the campaign, and ABC TV aired a comprehensive piece featuring myself and the WA Commissioner for Children and Young People Michelle Scott, Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan, Shadow Minister for Racing and Gaming Mick Murray and Professor Steve Allsop from the National Drug Research Institute. You can watch the coverage here.

Reducing the harm from excessive alcohol consumption in our youth is something I am passionate about. Parental role modelling and education is a key factor in how our children view alcohol and its role in our daily lives.

The research tells us that when young people have risky drinking behaviours, this is linked to alcohol problems later in life.

Our kids need to be able to go out and be safe from alcohol-related violence and all the other associated problems alcohol abuse brings with it. Their brains are developing and the teen years are crucial.

Alcohol is a mind-altering drug and our community needs to moderate drinking behaviour. We need to assess not only secondary supply legislation but the advertising of alcohol and availability of alcohol in society, and its intrinsic alignment with being able to have a good time.

If you’d like to contact Sam you can reach her via:

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/Sammenez

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/IntroduceSecondarySupplyLawsInWa

This month the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education is the Official On-Screen Partner for the One Direction ‘Take Me Home’ Australian Tour: 5th, 6th, 16th, 19th, 20th, 23rd, 24th, 25th, 26th, 29th & 30th October 2013.

To celebrate, FARE is asking people to tell the story of the best alcohol-free night of their lives.

 

Sam Menezes

Sam Menezes

Sam is a mum of four children and a third year Health Science- Health Promotion student at Curtin University. Her passion is advocating for the reduction of harm from alcohol to young people focusing on legislation and policy supported by community education. Sam has been an avid campaigner for the introduction of secondary supply laws in WA and would like this legislation to be introduced in SA and ACT. Her background is nursing and working in the dental industry.

10 comments

  • Hi Sam,
    It is so fantastic to hear about all the hard work you are putting into the campaign for secondary supply laws in Australia, and it’s great to see many different groups coming on board. The support for secondary supply coming from so many different areas of our community shows how important introducing these laws will be, and how much concern there is around alcohol-related harm and young people in Australia.
    It’s inspiring to see community members such as yourself being such great advocates on important alcohol-related issues. Keep up the amazing work!
    Hannah

    • Hi Hannah,

      Thanks so much for your positive and encouraging reply. I think the community has a great opportunity to band together and tell our Government what we think is the right thing to do to help reduce alcohol related harm to our young people. Roll on secondary supply – lets close the loop on alcohol access to the underaged!

      Sincerely

      Sam

  • Hi Sam
    Good on you! This country is soaked in alcohol, it forms the every day vocabulary of most drinkers, it is so entrenched that drinkers cannot see it for what it is….. Does anyone have an opinion on parents who give their kids drinks at home in the belief that they are less likely to suffer the effects if they try alcohol for the first time away from home?

    • Hi David,

      It’s a question of whether or not we believe underage drinking to be ok I guess. Its a complex situation made up of peoples beliefs and their own experiences. I go along the lines of alcohol is a drug and alters brain development and places young people in dangerous situations. The underage are not allowed to purchase it or access licenced premises and get it there. So why is it ok to supply it to someones kid? Particularly without parental permission! I know of someone whose daughter was at a sleep over, got dropped to a party (the parent didn’t know) became intoxicated, went to hospital. The parent was told her daughter had an alcohol problem! Can you believe it? She wqas 16 and not one adult took responsibility for the fact she became intoxicated on “their watch”.

  • Hi Sam, keep fighting the good fight!

    In 2011 we held an alcohol-free afters for my sons school ball. Luckily we had a really supportive group of parents amongst his friendship group who were prepared to help wherever they could. We decked out the shed with tulle,fairy lights and used a digital projector to show a video of the ball arrivals. We served a spit roast in buns with gravy and provided cool soft-drinks in cans. On the morning of the ball the parents dropped the kids bedding and change of clothes to the farm. This way, it was really easy to make sure that no drugs or alcohol were being smuggled into the party.
    After the ball, we picked up the teenagers in their gowns etc in a bus lent to us by a local church youth group. They were transported straight from the ball to the farm. They didn’t need to bring anything other than themselves.
    For entertainment, one of the parents organised a lazer tag set, for the kids and that evening, a number of the boys played that, while the girls watched the video arrivals or played in the pool.
    The kids partied on quite late – 2:00 -3:00 am. Four of the parents stayed up (in the house) to be on call in case anyone broke a bone or anything. The next morning we provided a cooked breakfast of the back verandah and only one boy (who’s stayed really up) late complained that the damn cows kept mooing loudly when the oaten hay bales that had lined the shed were fed to them by the other kids.
    Interestingly, in the lead-up to this event some of the other parents, outside the friendship group, were really disparaging and said that it would never work, that inevitably stuff would get smuggled in. The next morning(around 11:00 am) one of the girls who had been a bit of a party animal in the past came up to me and thanked us for running the event. She said ” You know this has been the best party I’ve been to ever. It was really social, we talked lots and really got to know everyone. It was awesome.” It was a truly positive experience for everyone involved.

    I think that what I’ve since found disappointing was that when we offered to repeat the event this year, for my daughter’s year level, there was only one other pair of parents that were at all interested and prepared to support the event. Giving kids the opportunity to grow up appropriately didn’t seem to rate all that highly.

    Interestingly, we subsequently allowed our daughter to go to an end of school event, held at another farm about two weeks ago… within a couple of hours, we got a call from our daughter with a request to be picked up early because so many of her peers were “hell-bent on getting wasted.” Some were smoking pot and others were hooking up in a pretty serious way. She and a small group of friends had gone determined not to drink. When we got home, my daughter described the pressure to drink as unrelenting. What disappointed her the most was the number of boys who finally plucked up the courage to tell her how pretty she was and then immediately offered her a drink. At one stage she had to step in and say to a friend ..”you know, you don’t have to try the jelly-shot. You said that you were not going to drink, you promised your dad, you don’t have to you know.” In the end she called us and we took her home.
    When she came home she was so disappointed in her cohort. I guess she’d been expecting an event similar to the one we held for her brother and was disappointed that she didn’t get the chance to have that experience herself.

    She was also disappointed that so many of the boys were learning that the way to “get a girl” was to ply her with alcohol. She bemoaned the fact that in that context, they all seemed so predatory and really wondered if there were any real “nice guys” around.

    I really hope you are successful in you efforts to change the drinking culture amongst our young people. I disagree with raising the drinking age to 21 because I think we need to simply enforce the current one of 18.

    I’ve spoken out about this in our community and copped a lot of flack over my views, even to the point of affecting my professional standing as a teacher, as people try to pay out on you for being “too strict” . I’ve been accused of giving my kids unfair advantages as a way of explaining away my kids good academic results. I suppose its easier for some parents than just accepting that when kids are allowed to learn on a good nights sleep and haven’t screwed up their brains with alcohol, then they will be more likely to do well academically and at sport.
    Again all the best.

    • Hi Louise, firstly thank you so much for sharing your story. I have found that parental attitudes toward their own alcohol use has a real impact and influence upon the use of alcohol by their children. We also had a similar situation with Leavers in 2009 and 2010. We hosted a leavers alcohol free event and found that parents in the first group totally supported us and helped us organise the event. The second group not so and we even had kids “drop off ” as the time came closer , as they realised we would not supply alcohol and allow them to drink either. Both events were successful but only with the kids whose parents wanted the same situation as us. During both events my husband and I witnessed extreme levels of intoxication in other adolescents all under 18. I also had conversations with parents about how they had supplied the kids with enough alcohol to have a good time. They associated leavers and alcohol intoxication with it being a rite of passage. The scary thing about this was the kids were 3 hours away from their parents and let loose. Frightening I tell you!

      Any way lets hope we can raise awareness of the dangers of adolescent alcohol consumption in the community. It really is an issue that’s receiving more and more attention which is a good thing.

      Sincerely

      Sam

    • Thanks Franny, my pleasure. It’s lovely to hear “keep up the great work”. It makes it all worth it!

  • I am really pleased that this work is being done. I am so disappointed that so many social and national occasions in Australia don’t seem to be able to happen without a huge over indulgence in alcohol. Years ago I taught a lot of humanitarian migrants to Australia from Central and South American countries. These were people who had been persecuted tortured and had had many family members murdered by extreme right wing governments. The people I taught were incredibly grateful to Australia and Australians for taking them in and longed to participate in all aspects of Australian life. It didn’t take long for them to withdraw and question what kind of society they had come to. They wanted to be wholly involved – their children, grandparents and other family members were automatically invited to any occasion. But when these events became just times for Australians to get drunk they quickly took their children and other vulnerable family members away. I really hope this legislation succeeds and is taken up in all states. I hope then that we can be successful in other kinds of actions to limit alcohol indulgence no matter where it is. Well done Sam and all others who have worked hard to do things differently.

    • Thanks Yolanda for you encouragement. Interesting to hear you say about people coming in from another country and how they view the Australian way of socialising. I feel sad that people have had to leave gatherings to protect their families from the levels of intoxication that can occur. That’s not a nice welcome to a new country.

      Sincerely

      Sam

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