The Family Peace Foundation is all about strengthening Australian Families. When I was first approached by the legendary Frank Walker from National Tiles, who together with his wife Rhonda fund the Foundation to be involved, I said to Frank that I would as long as the work we did was evidence based. I put Frank in touch with Professor John Toumbourou who is the Chair in Health Psychology and a prominent researcher and health advocate. He has been influential internationally and nationally in assisting the development of research and practice in the fields of prevention science and health psychology. He is, to use a Star Wars analogy, essentially the Yoda of the field.

John responded by sharing with the Foundation 4 key factors that he suggested we focus on – which are supported by over 50 years of peer reviewed research. These four factors were social and emotional competencies, rituals and traditions, financial literacy and of course alcohol. The last one of course is the most controversial. No one likes to be told that they are drinking too much and Governments around the world are hesitant to enact too much anti-alcohol legislation because the alcohol industry is very powerful and Governments are addicted to alcohol tax. So why alcohol? Well, it turns out there is a link between family violence and this week a new study revealed that we as a society are acutely aware of it and want action.

Each year the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education’s (FARE) national alcohol poll provides valuable trend data and insights into community perspectives on alcohol. 2017 was the first year in which Australians were asked if they perceived a link between alcohol and family and domestic violence. This year, a majority (92%) of Australians believe alcohol is linked to family and domestic violence.
That finding mirrors Australians’ attitudes to alcohol more broadly, with new polling revealing Aussies are concerned about and impacted by alcohol harm, and they are suspicious and deeply cynical about the alcohol industry. Now in its eighth year, the ‘Annual alcohol poll
2017: Attitudes and behaviours’ found almost eight in ten (78%) of respondents believe Australia has a problem with excess drinking, and a growing majority (81%) think more should be done to reduce alcohol harm.

FARE Chief Executive Michael Thorn was not surprised by the poll’s findings, and argued that this research should act as a wake-up call to governments that in his view has been too slow to take action. “The evidence showing alcohol’s involvement in family and domestic violence is not in dispute, and for an even longer time we’ve had the anecdotal proof as well. The public, whether witnessing this first-hand or through the media, clearly understands and acknowledges the link, with a majority of those (80%) calling on governments to step up and address the problem,” Mr Thorn said.

Conducted by Galaxy Research, the 2017 poll once again confirms the alcohol industry’s poor reputation. A minority of Australians say they could trust information provided by the alcohol industry on responsible drinking (40%), drinking during pregnancy (27%), underage drinking (24%) and the health benefits of certain alcohol products (16%). Mr Thorn says the Australian community has a healthy level of scepticism about the alcohol industry. “It is no exaggeration to say Aussies are deeply suspicious and justifiably critical when it comes to the alcohol industry. They don’t trust what the industry says and they recognise its poor corporate behaviour.

Fifty seven per cent of Australians say the alcohol industry targets people under the age of 18 years, and the majority, 74 per cent of Australians, believe the alcohol industry should pay for reducing the alcohol harm it causes, and rightly so,” Mr Thorn said. In 2017, Australians reported getting drunk in larger numbers than ever before.
The proportion of Australians who drink to get drunk increased to 44 per cent (up from 37% in 2016 and 34% in 2015). Wine remains the country’s alcoholic drink of choice (29%), beating out regular strength beer (21%).

For the first time since 2010, the researchers also asked Australians why they had increased or decreased their consumption of alcohol over the past 12 months. Peer pressure, stress, and depression led many to drink more, with 30 per cent needing to drink to feel happy or overcome depression, 29 per cent feeling more stressed, and 29 per cent of respondents influenced by the increased alcohol consumption of friends and family. In contrast, people’s wallets, waistlines and wellness concerns caused many to drink less, with 49 per cent of this group wanting to improve their health, 24 per cent citing weight concerns and 23 per cent stating they could not afford to drink as much as the reason for a decrease in their alcohol consumption.

Mr Thorn says this is the serious and very troubling face of the national poll. “It’s a damning indictment of this country’s toxic relationship with alcohol when we have more than a third of Australians affected by alcohol-related violence. These troubling findings are really a reflection of the extent of alcohol harm in Australia; the 15 lives lost and 430 hospitalisations caused by alcohol every single day,”

The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education’s has urged the Government to examine the impact of alcohol advertising on children, in light of the fact that the research shows 77 per cent of parents reporting their child under the age of 18 has been exposed to alcohol advertising (up from 71% in 2016). Almost half of parents indicated that their child has been exposed to alcohol advertising at a supermarket or shopping centre (49%), while outside on the street
(billboards/posters) (45%), through the radio, television or cinema (43%), or at a licensed venue (restaurant or club) (42%).

More than two thirds (68%) of Australians support placing a ban on alcohol advertising on television before 8.30pm, consistent with 2016
(70%) and a majority of Australians (55%) believe alcohol sponsorship should not be allowed at sporting events (down from 60% in 2016). The Foundation says Australia’s major sporting codes continue to find themselves out of step with community attitudes and expectations when it comes to alcohol advertising and sport. “It is very clear that on this issue Australians overwhelmingly support booze free sport.
Exposure to alcohol advertising is harmful to children, and we will continue to represent the Australian community and fight for an end to alcohol sponsorship in sport,” Mr Thorn said. To conclude with another Star Wars analogy, Professor John Toumbourou, FARE,  and other researchers clearly have the Force with them and the alcoholindustry who responded with typical arrogance and waffle – increasingly resemble the dark side of the force.

Dr Michael Carr-Gregg BA (Hons) MA, PhD MAPS Cert Child Internet Safety (UCLAN) Child and Adolescent Psychologist  FOLLOW Michael on Twitter @MCG58