This week, join Drink Tank as we celebrate a very special milestone, our 300th post.
Here at FARE we’re taking a moment to enjoy a slice of anniversary cake, to dive into some of our favourite posts from Drink Tank’s 140 contributors, and to reflect on our Drink Tank journey that commenced when we first hit the WordPress ‘publish’ button back in March 2012.
Today on Drink Tank, former editor, Joanna Le looks back on the genesis of Drink Tank and why it’s such a powerful tool for engaging and mobilising community action.
When I worked at FARE as Communications Manager, like many members of the team, I quickly became accustomed to answering the phone in the office, and chatting to people from across Australia.
Sometimes the call would come from one of FARE’s grantees – a drug and alcohol nurse in Brisbane, a youth worker in Alice Springs, or an Aboriginal leader in Adelaide.
Other times the call would come from an academic undertaking commissioned research for the organisation, or from a health professional supporting one of FARE’s many successful policy advocacy campaigns.
But often, the person making the call wasn’t someone who had connected with FARE in a professional capacity.
It would be from father whose son was killed in an alcohol-fuelled violent incident; a woman struggling to navigate our health system on behalf of her adopted child with a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder; a polite young man keen to share his story of recovery from alcohol dependency; a rural journalist wanting to raise awareness about alcohol-related harms in their community; or a mother desperately searching for a way to channel the grief of losing her daughter in a drink-driving accident.
At times these calls really caught me off guard, and were difficult to process. But they always reminded me of why FARE’s work is so important: Australia has a problem that affects us all in some way, shape or form, and that problem is alcohol.
So what could I, as a communication professional do to help?
Mainstream media always covered the usual stuff – the weekend’s alcohol-related chaos in our capital cities, alongside a double-page advertising spread for an alcohol retailer of course.
But where were the stories of the people who I spoke to on the phone? Why didn’t we ever hear their perspectives in the public discourse?
Drink Tank was born out of a clear need to provide Australians with a space to engage in meaningful discussion and debate about alcohol’s impact on our lives.
When we first launched Drink Tank, the team was focused on highlighting the voices of folk who had previously gone unheard, or worse, ignored by decision-makers and mainstream media outlets.
Within the first couple of months of going live, the submissions were rolling in, and our biggest problem was finding the time to schedule all our new content.
Importantly, Drink Tank didn’t only highlight alcohol as a public health issue. It demonstrated that alcohol misuse impacts our social justice system, the identity of our young people, the reputation of our sports heroes, the resources of our police, the efficacy of our tax system, and the platforms that we engage in online.
As someone who now works in the women’s sector, I can see more clearly than ever, the role that alcohol plays in men’s violence against women.
Earlier this year on Drink Tank FARE Chief Executive Michael Thorn shared some of the horrific findings of a report on alcohol-related family and domestic violence:
It’s important that this kind of research and the subsequent recommended policy responses aren’t only discussed and debated by those in formal decision-making roles.
These issues need to be shared with and shaped by the people who are directly impacted by them, and with those who are passionate about taking action when governments won’t.
I believe that with the ongoing decentralisation of the media landscape, and the widespread availability of new technologies, that power no longer lies solely with those who hold formal decision-making roles.
Citizens have a unique opportunity to have their say, to draw attention to the issues that matter most to them, and apply collective pressure to drive positive social change.
Platforms like Drink Tank are powerful tools for engaging and mobilising community action, and I’m proud to have been a part of its inception.