The Weekly Advertiser Horsham

Striking a balance


Horsham’s police Inspector has encouraged people to consider the potential repercussi­ons of their actions while consuming alcohol.

Di Thomson said Wimmera residents, on average, consumed alcohol at higher rates than the statewide average, and had antisocial attitudes towards alcohol.

She said alcohol consumptio­n was often involved in other criminal offending – which could have lasting impacts on people’s lives.

Inspector Thomson’s comments come in the wake of public intoxicati­on reforms this month, which has decriminal­ised being intoxicate­d in a public place; and ahead of end-of-year festivitie­s.

The reforms transition from the previous justice response to a health-led response.

Inspector Thomson said police had worked with licencees of venues, and venues such as sporting clubs, to ensure they were aware of their responsibi­lities in the service of alcohol, as the reforms were introduced.

She said police retained their powers of arrest if people committed offences while intoxicate­d.

She said evidence showed drink and drug-driving offences remained prevalent in the community, and eight in 10 family violence offences also involved alcohol.

“Most of the people, most of the time, are doing a ripper job of keeping each other safe, complying with the rules and regulation­s of the state of Victoria and going “When tragedy or trauma touches you, it touches you forever” about their business in a really positive way,” she said.

“But when tragedy or trauma touches you, it touches you forever.

“These things can be life changing – not for a good reason, but for a terribly tragic reason and you can’t take that time back.”

Inspector Thomson encouraged people to take care of their friends and consider the impact of the choices they, or their friends, might make – particular­ly young people who, she said, were often consuming alcohol with the purpose of becoming intoxicate­d.

She encouraged people to consider the drivers of their alcohol consumptio­n and, reconsider their choices if consuming alcohol was a problem, or had a negative impact on them.

“If you’re getting drunk because you have other things in your life that you need to get help with – if life is overwhelmi­ng you, if you have some anxiety – let’s get help, and a health-led response, prior to consuming too much alcohol and what might come with that,” she said.

Mental Health Minister Ingrid Stitt said the reforms were the direct result of tireless advocacy from First Nations communitie­s and the family of Aunty Tanya Day – as well as key recommenda­tions from the Royal Commission

into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and coroners’ reports, including into Aunty Tanya’s tragic and avoidable death.

She said the new approach would include outreach services to support people with transport to a safe place if needed – for most people, being their own home or that of a family member, friend or carer; for others, being a staffed place of safety or sobering centre.

The health-led model prioritise­s services for First Nations Victorians, in acknowledg­ement of the disproport­ionate impact public intoxicati­on laws and police interactio­ns has had for too long.

She said extra services would work alongside local health and social support services to ensure people could also access help for concerns such as alcohol and other drug addiction, family violence, homelessne­ss, mental health and wellbeing, or financial difficulti­es at the same time.

“For too long we have seen First Nations Victorians disproport­ionately affected by current laws and too many tragic outcomes when they are in custody – simply being intoxicate­d in a public place should not be a crime,” Ms Stitt said.

“These health-led reforms strike a balance between supporting people who are intoxicate­d and community safety, and while there is always more work to do to close the gap for vulnerable people in our community – this reform will undoubtedl­y change and save lives.”

– Inspector Di Thomson

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