Alcohol Policy Coalition raises 'alcohol harm zone' to curb harm, including alcohol-related family violence

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IT might be Victoria’s third largest regional city, but the rate of alcohol-related family violence in Bendigo outstrips those of both Ballarat and Geelong.

Bendigo recorded a rate of 17.2 incidents per 10,000 people during the 2014-15 financial year, Alcohol Policy Coalition data shows.

The rate of alcohol-related family violence statewide was 10.7.

Ballarat recorded a rate of 13.6 during the same period, while the rate in Geelong was 11.2.

The figures come as the APC lobbies the state government to limit new liquor licences in so-called ‘domestic violence hot spots’.

Bendigo has not been listed among the proposed ‘alcohol harm’ zones.

But APC spokesman Mark Zirnsak said figures for alcohol-related harms in the regional city were much higher than in the whole of Victoria, or in comparable regional centres.

Alcohol-related hospital admissions in Bendigo rose 89 per cent in the five years to 2014/15, while admissions statewide increased 11 per cent.

Meanwhile, the district’s alcohol-related ambulance attendances shot up 60 per cent, compared to the 34 per cent rise recorded statewide.

“Strong evidence links the aggressive pushing of alcohol by those who profit from its sale to increases in family violence, child maltreatment and health problems,” Dr Zirnsak said.

Centre for Non-Violence chief executive officer Margaret Augerinos welcomed the coalition’s efforts, but said it was important to also address other factors.

Drink Link

Restricting the number of liquor outlets in an area can reduce harm by limiting competition between retailers and discounting, an alliance believes.

But alcohol is only one of a range of factors to consider in efforts to prevent family violence, the Bendigo-based Centre for Non-Violence has stressed.

The Alcohol Policy Coalition is urging the state government to introduce a policy limiting new liquor licences in communities with high levels of alcohol-related harm, including some family violence cases.

“These problems get worse when there is a concentration of alcohol outlets competing with each other to sell as much alcohol as possible in a community,” APC spokesman Mark Zirnsak said.

“Our government needs to take action to protect Victorian children, families and communities from the devastating consequences of the aggressive pushing of alcohol by businesses only focused on making a buck.”

Centre for Non-Violence chief executive officer Margaret Augerinos welcomed the efforts of the group’s 14 member health and allied agencies.

“Alcohol is identified in a lot of family violence cases,” she said.

But there were still a ‘huge’ number of police attendances in which Ms Augerinos said alcohol and other drugs did not seem to be a factor.

“The drivers of family violence and violence against women are not necessarily related to the presence, or not, of alcohol,” she said.

Consistent drivers of violence included gender roles and stereotypes, uneven power relations, disrespect towards women and condoning of violence.

If you or someone you know is affected by family violence, call 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732.