The Commissioner for Children and Young People WA Colin Pettit has lodged a formal objection to a proposed relaxing of takeaway alcohol sales restrictions in Fitzroy Crossing saying that they are not in the best interests of local children and young people.
The current restrictions only allow ‘light’ packaged liquor to be sold at take-away outlets, with an application made to the Director of Liquor Licensing for mid-strength alcohol to be sold.
Mr Pettit said any relaxation of the current restrictions in Fitzroy Crossing put children and young people’s wellbeing at risk.
“Alcohol has had a devastating effect on the children and young people of the Fitzroy Valley and it is accepted by all that the current restrictions have been effective in reducing levels of alcohol-related harm, domestic violence and other destructive behaviours,” Mr Pettit said.
“The positive effects of this measure are far reaching, for example the two-year report into the Fitzroy Crossing alcohol sale restrictions found it had a significant positive impact on children and young people’s education.
“Prior to the restrictions the abuse of alcohol by adults and noise from anti-social behaviour in the community resulted in children having poor sleep, poor nutrition and poor supervision, so it was impossible for many to participate in education in any meaningful way.”
Mr Pettit said the current restrictions do not prevent every single instance of alcohol-related harm and are not a simple solution to all the challenges children face in the Fitzroy Valley, but they are an important and effective strategy that should not be tampered with before long-term change is evident.
“As part of my research into this issue, we consulted children and young people in the Fitzroy Valley and the prominent theme was that they felt safer and better cared for when their community was alcohol free,” Mr Pettit said.
“I completely disagree with the applicants’ assertion that allowing the takeaway sale of mid-strength alcohol will address ‘sly-grogging’ or the black market in full strength beer, or that it will result in less harm for children and young people.
“There is ample research which shows that any increase in the availability of alcohol increases alcohol-related harm, so we should instead be considering other targeted strategies to deal with any continuing alcohol abuse and illegal movement of full-strength alcohol.
“Considering the challenges children and young people in the Fitzroy Valley have faced, and continue to face, their wellbeing must be the paramount consideration in every decision made regarding this community.”
Other reported benefits of the restrictions include reduced street drinking and associated violence, families purchasing more food and clothing; families being more aware of their health and being proactive in regard to their children’s health, increased effectiveness of social services already active in the valley and increased participation of children in recreational activities.
Comments from children and young people from the Fitzroy Valley consulted by the Commissioner for Children and Young People WA about the impact of alcohol in their community:
‘Grog – make the kids sad, people go mad, fighting, make old people worried’ – boy, 14 years
‘Some people go through my house and I don’t feel safe’ – boy, 9 years
‘I don’t feel safe when I am in a car and the driver is drunk’ – girl, 7 years
‘The kids will have trouble learning, having energy, sleeping, feeling safe, hunting and running’ – girl, 12 years
‘It makes you deaf when your parents put the music loud and you get headaches’ – girl, 12 years
‘When your parents get drunk you will be worried all night when you sleep and you will be crying’ – girl, 10 years
‘When someone drinks, I feel sad because they don’t look after me’ – girl, 7 years