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No Excuse Campaign Update

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NIGHTCLUB OWNERS FORUM

241 King Street Melbourne

03 9916 9005

http://www.nightclubownersforum.com/

28th June 2011

Dear Industry Colleagues and Stakeholders

‘NO EXCUSE’ CAMPAIGN UPDATE

The Nightclub Owners Forum in conjunction with the Australian Sex Party has launched a multi-pronged campaign to dispel the widely accepted, simplistic and unquestioned belief that alcohol causes violence, which in turn is leading to ill informed policy by Governments and unfounded attacks against the hospitality industry by the tabloid media and other vested interests.

We are providing this update to keep you informed of campaign progress and outcomes, and seek your active support.

$10,000 Research Challenge

Earlier this year, we offered a $10,000 reward for the first person able to provide credible proof that alcohol causes violence, and promoted this widely through media advertising. As expected no has been able to do so, and the reward still remains on offer. Details of the offer can be seen in the media release on our website - http://www.nightclubownersforum.com/id9.html

Internet Campaign on Facebook, Twitter and Blogspot

A viral campaign is now live on the Internet. Please post your comments and promote the sites below to your networks.

FACEBOOK          TWITTER            BLOG

Revolving Billboard

One of Melbourne’s most prominent billboards in Punt Road adjacent to Hoddle Street and Richmond Railway Station delivers our message to hundreds of thousands of people each week, as indicated in the photos below.

Of these hundreds of thousands of people, two people chose to make a complaint against the Billboard to the Advertising Standards Board which last week dismissed these complaints. 

Promoting More Informed Research and Highlighting Inconsistency

People following our campaign could be excused for ascribing the quote below to the Nightclub Owners Forum:

“The alcohol myth

It is commonly assumed that domestic violence is caused by alcohol abuse. This isn’t true. The perpetrator is sober in about half of domestic violence cases where the police are called. Also, not all alcoholics or binge drinkers resort to violence when angered or frustrated. 

It is how the perpetrator sees himself and his rights that lead to the violence. If a man abuses his family and also tends to have difficulty with controlling his alcohol consumption, he needs to recognise that he has two separate problems”.

This is however not the case. It can be found on a State Government website namely the ‘Better Health Channel’ – see http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Domestic_violence_why_men_abuse_women?open

But we could not agree more – the basis of our campaign is that, as the statement above rightly emphasises, alcohol abuse and violence are two distinct social problems. One does not cause the other. People who binge drink or engage in violence or other dysfunctional behaviour such as problem gambling, do so because of an underlying psychological problem. You cannot treat the dysfunctional behaviours without addressing the underlying problems.

The Nightclub Owners Forum is very concerned that current policy on violence and alcohol as it applies to entertainment precincts and other public settings is both two dimensional, and totally inconsistent. You have one arm of the State Government blindly claiming that alcohol causes violence, whilst another refutes this myth.

So what are the true facts?

Let’s start with the unarguable premise that the vast majority of people who consume alcohol (in any setting) do not become violent as a consequence. So quite clearly, it is simply false to state that alcohol causes violence.

Obviously some people who have consumed alcohol subsequently engage in violence or conversely some violent people may consume alcohol – this is simply a correlation of two events and not scientific evidence of cause.

You can then add many other dimensions, variables or correlations to this equation, ie people who may or may not have consumed alcohol may:

have a mental illness (mental illness rates are very high in Australia by international standards, as a rates of suicide as consequence)

have a childhood history of being a bully in school or other violent activities

have suffered a recent emotional event (eg a marital dispute, rejection by a boyfriend / girlfriend, loss of a job, etc, etc)

have consumed other illicit, prescription or recreation drugs

have grown up in disadvantaged circumstances (eg  a refugee from a war torn country, an abused child either in the home or by clergy, etc)

have a history of being involved in racial or religious conflict, or maybe from a racial or religious minority and subject to abuse

be associated with organised crime or gangs, or simply be predators seeking to benefit by assaulting and stealing from others 

be participating in a footy trip, ‘mad Monday’, party bus or other social activity where it is or has been culturally acceptable to ‘muck up’

been exposed to excessive violence on television, movies, video games, etc which ironically is deemed to meet acceptable community standards

be a foreign tourist with different cultural attitudes to acceptable social behaviour or attitudes to women, for example

It is these and other complex dimensions or variables, which are the underlying causes or triggers of violence.

It should be stressed that our campaign does not seek to further deregulate or promote the supply or consumption of alcohol – we recognise that misuse of alcohol has very serious health implications. We are on the public record, as our website demonstrates, for lobbying Governments to do more about addressing the cultural factors which lead to binge drinking, and associated issues such as preloading, and uncontrolled drinking in the streets and private parties.

Our campaign is simply targeted at more informed research, better social policy and putting more onus on the individual for their own behaviour. We are, in fact, finally seeing some evidence of acceptance of our stance in Victoria, where the current State Government, to its credit, has recently introduced much tougher penalties for offensive and violent behaviour in and around licensed premises.

As such we are being successful in changing prevailing community attitudes towards a greater onus on the individual and personal responsibility, and there is likewise now evidence that assaults levels in late night entertainment precincts in Melbourne have recently declined significantly as a result. 

It is should be borne in mind in any event that less than 2% of all assaults in Victoria are associated in any way with late night entertainment precincts, so most violence occurs elsewhere and predominantly in the family home. Most experts in domestic violence, as we have indicated above and quoted in the research paper on our website entitled ‘Alcohol Does Not Cause of Fuel Violence”, now strongly rebuff any notion that alcohol is the cause of, or an excuse for domestic violence, and likewise this is no longer a valid defence in Court.

The public perception is much different however. As a consequence of sensationalist reporting by the tabloid media, knee jerk reactions by Governments and a lack of willingness to commission independent research, the general public has a wide held belief that late night entertainment precincts are dangerous places to visit. Violent incidents, however, at night in Melbourne are few and far between, and many people who regularly patronise Melbourne’s vibrant nightlife or live in the CBD indicate they have never witnessed a serious incident.

Our media campaign is evidence based, and seeks improved outcomes for the community and to dispel myths that unnecessarily and falsely create public fear, and is therefore socially responsible.

The nightclub industry would like all of its patrons to be well behaved, drink responsibly and enjoy the quality entertainment and facilities provided. 

The Nightclub Owners Forum would prefer that this can be achieved in a cooperative manner between industry, Governments, the non Government sector and enforcement agencies. However, most of the latter have adopted an adversarial approach in recent years, and it has left up to the industry to provide the true facts. 

The hundreds of thousands of people who patronise Melbourne’s late night entertainment venues do so because it is culturally relevant. Nearly everyone has experienced a nightclub at some time of their life and it is one of the main attractions cited by tourists. It is similar to when pop stars becomes famous, they become part of the popular culture.

Popular culture in turn determines the amenity of our cities. Melbourne is a vibrant city because of its diverse and popular nightlife. This is, in fact, the real ‘amenity’ of our City at night and this needs to be acknowledged and nurtured by those in Government and the media who are attempting to destroy Melbourne’s nightlife.

We hope our campaign, with your support, will continue to achieve tangible results in the community interest.

regards Peter Iwaniuk    

Convenor          Mobile: 0411 75 11 99