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We can curb futile violence

Early on Sunday morning Queenslanders woke to news of another senseless assault involving a young man – a son and a brother, so loved by his family and friends. I just feel so terribly sad for them.

There are 15,000 recorded assaults in Queensland each year directly related to alcohol. Enough is enough; it’s time to act. This is senseless. Absolutely senseless.

Many assaults are never reported – there are just too many. People left with lifelong pain or disfigurements are hidden in every community. As a surgeon, every Monday morning I saw these young victims at our hospitals. I have operated on one unsuspecting teenager after another who was just out for a good night but ended up in my care after a senseless assault.

It is easy to watch the nightclub brawls on the TV news and think that you know the answer, but my team and I were the ones who had to pick up the pieces on a weekly basis. My colleagues continue to see them. And that’s after our emergency personnel have already kept them safe by providing vital treatment.

Let’s not forget our frontline services – the police, our paramedics – because they too want solutions to this scourge. We read not only of their constant struggle to deal with ever-increasing numbers involved (up 24 per cent from 2010) but also we now hear about assaults perpetrated on them. These are the very people who give so much of their lives and sometimes place themselves in danger – and it is incomprehensible to think they could potentially be harmed by the very person they are trying to assist.

This constant exposure to trauma and violence caused me to consider how this mindless behaviour can and should be stopped.

For more than 12 years I have campaigned tirelessly for prevention of violence in our community. As a surgeon, I could only keep operating on more and more distressing cases. But as an elected representative, I felt I could do more. Preventing violence surely is more worthwhile than trying to mop up the aftermath.

The most frustrating thing is that we have reliable evidence that measures put in place elsewhere in Australia and overseas can reduce these assaults by a third. That means fewer people suffering serious injuries and, as importantly, fewer families suffering inconsolable grief. There is no magic solution that can make it all disappear but there are sound, reliable measures that can decrease violence and make our community a safer place to live. One of these measures is a legislative approach.

The Palaszczuk Government has introduced legislation into the Parliament that aims to achieve these goals.

Essentially, the legislation adjusts trading hours while ensuring adults can still enjoy themselves in Queensland’s many night-time precincts. Peer-reviewed evidence both from Australia and overseas shows this is the most effective approach. What is two hours’ reduced trading time compared to the life of one of our children?

After extensive consultation, Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath has developed fair and equitable legislation that will result in harm reduction without affecting our night-time economy. As the Attorney-General said yesterday, we believe these are sensible changes that will see a reduction in the number of assaults.

Just as domestic violence legislation received bipartisan support I have been encouraged by personal approaches from the Opposition that our proposed legislation will again have this support. Personally I can see the light on the horizon. I can see less tragedy, less injury and less life ruined by one senseless act.

As a father of four boys, I know fully the issues at hand. Every parent wants to see their child grow and have a rich and rewarding life, no parent wants to be beside their child in an intensive care ward after a senseless, violent act. No parent deserves this.

As a Member of Parliament, if I can help stop even a handful of cases entering the clinics of just one of our hospitals, I know that I will have done far more good than operating on 100 of our children. This is why I am here: to do as much as I can to prevent this violence and see our children return home safe.

My heart weeps for the family of Cole Miller. This is a senseless tragedy, an absolutely senseless tragedy.


Dr Anthony Lynham is the Acting Queensland Health Minister. This post first appeared in The Courier Mail

Anthony Lynham

Anthony Lynham

The Hon Dr Anthony Lynham is a maxillofacial surgeon who has seen firsthand the devastating harms from alcohol and campaigns tirelessly for the prevention of violence. He is the Labor Member of Stafford and a member of the Legislative Assembly of Queensland, as the Minister for State Development and Minister for Natural Resources and Mines.

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