Liquor review must address violence

One year on since the Royal Commission into Family Violence (Victoria) report was tabled in State Parliament, leading researchers are urging the Victorian Government to ensure that any changes to the liquor act comprehensively address alcohol-related family violence.

Alcohol contributes to an estimated 50.3 per cent of all partner violence in Australia, and 73 per cent of physical assaults by a partner.[i]

Alcohol-related family and domestic violence in Victoria attended by police has jumped in recent years (2003-12) from 15 to 23 incidents per 10,000 people, with this figure likely to be significantly higher due to the under-reported nature of domestic violence cases.[ii]

The joint submission from La Trobe University’s Judith Lumley Centre for family health research and the Centre for Alcohol Policy and Research (CAPR) highlights several opportunities for the Victorian Government to effectively address and reduce family violence through the LCRA.

Ingrid Wilson, Research Fellow at the Judith Lumley Centre, said research had clearly identified that alcohol misuse is a real and constant risk factor for domestic and family violence.

“Women and children are disproportionately affected by family violence. Women are consistently reported at higher rates of being the victim in family and domestic violence cases than men, with more than 30 per cent of women experiencing alcohol-related verbal abuse and almost 40 per cent experiencing alcohol-related physical abuse from a current or former partner, compared with 10.7 and 6.3 per cent of men respectively,” she said.

The submission highlights four areas for action:

  • the need to address alcohol promotion that supports excessive drinking and violence against women;
  • reducing alcohol availability;
  • empowering individuals to make their homes safe; and
  • reducing the risk of harm from a recidivist violent drinker.

Ms Wilson said advertising, particularly alcohol advertising, plays a role in reinforcing attitudes and gender stereotypes, including potent representations of dominant forms of masculinity.

“We recommend the current guidelines that govern responsible liquor advertising and promotion are broadened to specifically address harmful representations of gender. This includes representations of masculinity linked to dominant gender roles, excessive drinking and disrespectful attitudes towards women,” Ms Wilson said.

Reducing the availability of alcohol, specifically the adoption of reforms to the licensing process recommended by the Alcohol Policy Coalition to minimise harm associated with alcohol misuse is another key recommendation of the submission.

Deputy Director of CAPR, La Trobe University’s Dr Michael Livingston, whose work examines trends and patterns in alcohol consumption and harm and the impact of alcohol policies, said that in the last 15 years the number of packaged liquor outlets in Victoria have increased by almost 50 per cent.

“Research shows Australians purchase the majority of their alcohol at bottleshops, including big-box stores selling cheap liquor. Unfortunately, there is strong evidence that the availability of packaged liquor relates to rates of family violence in Australia, with research showing that for every 10,000 additional litres of pure alcohol sold by off-site outlets, domestic violence rose by 26 per cent in that area,” Dr Livingston said.

Other recommendations include legislating to allow women to ban alcohol from their homes, and that the use of banned drinker provisions for repeat violent drinkers should also be adopted.

“Introducing banned drinker provisions to account for the risk to family members would protect those within the immediate vicinity of the drinker. We know victims of alcohol-related family violence are most at risk when the offender returns home; barring historically violent individuals from licenced premises or from purchasing alcohol would greatly increase the protection of these potential victims,” Dr Livingston said.

Dr Livingston said that one year on from the Royal Commission it was time for the Victorian Government to recognise alcohol’s connection to family violence and to act on this through implementing strong policies as part of its liquor reforms.

“We have provided the Victorian Government with four simple, feasible steps to reduce alcohol-related family violence in our LCRA submission. A year on from the Royal Commission, it is time now for Government to shift from review to implementation and introduce strong policies that address the link between family violence and alcohol,” Dr Livingston said.

Media contact: Briena Barrett, 0432 566 014

The Centre for Alcohol Policy Research (CAPR) is an innovative, world-class research facility examining alcohol-related harms and the effectiveness of alcohol-related policies. The Centre, which receives funding from the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) and La Trobe University, is led by Professor Robin Room. To find out more visit www.capr.edu.au


[i] Laslett AM, Catalano P, Chikritzhs T, Dale C, Doran C, Ferris J, et al. The range and magnitude of alcohol’s harm to others. Fitzroy, Victoria: AER Centre for Alcohol Policy Research, Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre, Eastern Health, 2010.

[ii] Turning Point. AODstats Melbourne, Australia, 2014 [updated 28/11/14 15/05/15]. Available from: http://aodstats.org.au/.

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