Drink Tank

Cringe the Binge: local solutions to national issues

Developed by Byron Youth Service (BYS), Cringe the Binge is a new national initiative that aims to reverse youth binge drinking by supporting individual and community action. Di Mahoney is the Director of BYS, and one of the drivers behind the new campaign. She and her team are launching their first National Weekend of Action this weekend.

How did Cringe the Binge come about?

In 2009 we were very excited to be the recipients of a national binge drinking initiative grant, and with the grant we implemented a local community-based program called “Project U-Turn”.

Our very positive experience working with young people and key stakeholders during the two years of this program, combined with the extensive work we already do with local high schools and our street-based youth teams over many years, got us thinking about how we could have more impact.

Initially we were thinking of starting something local that would help us fund our programs – but then we realised that Cringe the Binge could provide a solid platform for lots of other youth and community organisations who work closely with young people on these issues too. Because binge drinking isn’t confined to Byron Bay, it’s a national issue.

Youth binge drinking is a complex issue, so we started to realise that we need to get ahead of the problem, and change the way young people are taught to relate to alcohol.

Why has Byron Bay been the catalyst for Cringe the Binge?

Good question! At the moment Byron Bay has a strong party-town culture, but at the same time, there are many people who are committed to a very healthy lifestyle, and businesses that are getting behind our actions because they believe in providing a safe and supportive community for young people to grow up in.

Our statistics show that we experience higher than average rates of risky drinking among teens, high levels of alcohol-related violence (generally occurring on Fri and Sat nights), high rates of STI’s, high rates of DUI and alcohol-related crime.  We have well above the average numbers of liquor licenses for our population, and we are fighting hard to keep new licenses from being issued, making more alcohol cheaply available and increasing the risks for young people.

BYS is blessed to have some very passionate and experienced youth workers in its team.  With substantial experience in on-the-ground programs and successful coalface interventions, we understand young people and how to engage them around these issues.

Our staff, committee members and volunteers at BYS have worked together in an amazing way this year to come up with a workable grass-roots solution and make this all happen.

What does BYS hope to achieve from Cringe the Binge?

What we want to achieve is a change in the culture that accepts binge drinking as normal and acceptable. We think it’s time for us all to unite to defy the Australian culture that accepts drinking to get drunk as socially acceptable and normal.  We want young people to drink less and go easy.

There are compelling local and national statistics which identify youth binge drinking as a significant cause of serious social harms such as alcohol fuelled violence, sexual assault, sexually transmitted infections, exacerbating mental health conditions, impairing adolescent brain development,  disproportionate drink driving fatalities and injuries and potential chronic illness caused by early onset drinking.  We want to help turn around the underlying behaviours that result in four young Aussies dying each week from alcohol related injuries.

But to us it’s not just the numbers. As youth workers we’ve witnessed and supported many young people and families that have been affected by alcohol-related deaths, accidents and violence.  We’ve experienced first-hand the shock and sadness when young lives are lost and seen the affects it has had in our community.

So we’re attempting to not only change the old culture but create a new culture that’s about “bingeing on life” – not alcohol.

What are you asking people to do this weekend?

This weekend we’re asking all Australians to stop and think about their alcohol consumption and donate what they would normally spend on alcohol to Cringe the Binge. We’re asking people everywhere to make a commitment to supporting young people through making a donation.  We’re providing a way for concerned Australians to do something useful on the issue.

We decided to hold the National Weekend of Action immediately following the Melbourne Cup – a big drinking event in Australia – and in the lead up to Schoolies – a major youth event that too-often revolves around excessive alcohol consumption.  This period of time is often the start of the binge drinking season for many young people as they finish school or university studies and head into summer.

We hope that as our campaign develops community members and leaders from all parts of Australia, and from all walks of life, will take a stand and join us to Cringe the Binge!

What will you do with all the money you raise?

We are raising funds to help support the work that youth and community workers do with young people around alcohol mis-use.  We want to develop resources and tools for use by workers in any community in Australia to help them start tackling the issue locally, at the grass-roots level, and change the culture.  We believe that youth and community workers are skilled and well-positioned within their communities to help change things.  Through inspiring the individual action of giving, we hope to create the community change and bring about more activities that are about bingeing on life!

Tell us a bit about your 2012 series of cheeky posters!

Our 2012 posters are deliberately cheeky and provocative, and have been designed to use humour to engage young people.  The concept of using gig posters provides an edgy design element that will appeal to young people.

The posters are coming from a very different angle to other government health campaigns, which young people often feel preach to them.  We can afford to be a bit cheekier than government departments and push the boundaries.  We are aware that some of the posters might challenge people’s thinking, but we believe we all need to wake up to the effects that are possible from drinking in an out-of-control way.

How can the Drink Tank community support Cringe the Binge?

Please join the Cringe the Binge National Weekend of Action this weekend. Donations over $10 go into the draw to win an amazing weekend in Byron Bay that includes accommodation, meals, massage and gifts. Jump on the website for the latest info! www.cringethebinge.com.au

Di Mahoney

Di Mahoney is the Director of Byron Youth Service. She has lived in Byron Shire for the past 9 years, having moved from the Surf Coast of Victoria, where she had previously worked in community planning and development with Surf Coast Shire. Di is a passionate community development worker with extensive and diverse experience in community sector organisations. She loves seeing people of all ages and stages reach their potential and this extends to whole communities striving to be the best they can be! Di has qualifications in social science, education and training, small business management and community sector development.


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