Driving Change forum – a frontline perspective

At a time where lockout laws remain a contentious issue among various states and territories and alcohol harm continues to cause devastation across the country, a new collaborative study between hospital emergency departments and Australian universities will track where alcohol harm occurs and how best to target violence prevention efforts.

Calvary Health Care ACT, Monash Health hospitals, Barwon Health Geelong Hospital, South West Healthcare, and St Vincent’s Hospitals in Sydney and Melbourne are participating in Driving Change, a study based on the successful ‘Cardiff model’ of violence prevention from the United Kingdom (UK).

The Cardiff model was first trialled from 2002 to 2007 and contributed to substantial reductions in assault and injury in the city of Cardiff. It has now been adopted in more than 80 per cent of the UK’s emergency departments. The Australian adaptation will span three years and aims to capture statistics around alcohol purchased on-licence (at pubs and clubs) as well as from packaged (takeaway) outlets of patients presenting to selected emergency departments.

The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) co-hosted a Driving Change forum today in Canberra, together with the Australian Medical Association (ACT), Deakin University, Australian Federal Police Association (AFPA), and the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM), which highlighted the burden faced by emergency workers and police due to alcohol.

Professor Jonathan Shepherd, who led the Cardiff model pilot in the UK, presented at the forum on the powerful strategic role health sector data collection can play in reducing violence. His UK study found a considerable number of violent assault victims present to hospitals for treatment, yet for a variety of reasons these incidents were not reported to police.

According to Professor Shepherd, anonymous collection of similar data in Australian hospitals will ensure that police can better target their resources, that violent hotspots will come under greater attention, and that policymakers can introduce targeted and evidence-informed measures to address those violent hotspots with great precision.

Notably, the study will also record alcohol-related violence in the home, which while less visible is as much a concern as alcohol-related street violence. Between July 2009 and June 2014 in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) alone, almost a quarter (23.9 per cent) of family and domestic violence incidents attended by police were alcohol-related.

Canberra’s statistics on alcohol-related violence and harm are disturbing but not unique. In the ACT, one in seven presentations to emergency departments is alcohol-related. Across a 12-month period to September 2016, police recorded 2,810 offences – or 60 a week – involving alcohol across the capital. And if that isn’t enough, research conducted in 2016 revealed alcohol-related crime was estimated to cost ACT taxpayers a staggering $11.7 million dollars each year.

It is hoped that the results from the Driving Change study will open lagging governments’ eyes to the daily reality of Australia’s frontline emergency workers.

Because the old adage is true – nothing good ever happens after midnight.


Watch Professor Shepherd’s presentation in full

Professor Jonathan Shepherd discusses the UK Cardiff model of violence prevention, Australia’s Driving Change pilot, and  at a forum held in Canberra on Tuesday 7 March 2017.


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Michael Thorn

Michael is the Chief Executive of the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE), and tweets from @MichaelTThorn.

This article has 1 comment

  1. Ian Webster Reply

    A great initiative!

    Congratulations on setting this up.

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