Alcohol culture change program
Horsham Rural City councillors hope education and youth participation in an alcohol culture change program will reduce high-risk drinking behavior in the municipality’s youth.
The council will appoint a researcher to work on the program, which will incorporate education, social marketing and raising awareness to reduce the effect of rural drinking culture on youth behaviour.
The Department of Human Services has provided $270,000 over two years to implement the council’s proposed culture change project.
The project will support parents to provide stronger role models for alcohol use; support young people to better understand the issue of alcohol and its effects; and provide alternative activities, driven by young people, to parties and gatherings.
Council chief executive Peter Brown said the council was fortunate to receive funding for its proposal.
“It has been in the pipeline for two years or more,” he said.
“I think there’s a lot of new information that’s come about in the past 10 years of the effects of alcohol on developing brains and bodies – it’s the sort of information we didn’t have 20 years ago.
“It is important we try to sort out the problem locally.”
Community services director Kevin O’brien said the council had advertised the two-year position.
He said the project would involve a partnership with Federation University, Grampians Community Health, Victoria Police, schools and other education providers.
“There will also need to be a strong input from young people,” he said.
“This will be done through a target population leadership group, which will have an important role in designing the details of our youth engagement strategies.”
Cr Mark Radford suggested the council look at providing incentives for people who chose to run alcohol-free events, or ‘carrots’ to encourage people to change their behavior.
“The aim of the culture change program is not to stop people drinking, but to reduce alcohol consumption in young people,” he said.
“We have a problem with 12-year-old kids to 18-yearolds drinking too much.
“That’s an incredible thing to say. It’s great to see something being done about it.”
Mayor Pam Clarke said the funding would allow the council to work on the ‘real’ issues identified in stage one of the project, including ease of access to alcohol; parents and peers shaping and influencing behavior; and gender differences in patterns of drinking and in the level and type of risk-taking behavior.
“We’ve found what the issues are, now it’s about getting to the tintacks and trying to get some change through education and through supporting people to understand the effects of alcohol on young minds and bodies,” she said.
“It’s quite challenging to not drink or be a non-drinker in today’s society. I think it’s great we’ve got the money and that we’ve got the program.”
Cr Alethea Sedgman said the project needed to have a strong focus on entertainment options to provide an alternative to ‘pub life’. She said the project needed a wider focus.
“Why are we targeting just age 12? Why not get them earlier before they turn 12 and ingrain in them drinking is not a good thing for a developing body,” she said.