Victoria’s Irresponsible Service of Alcohol
BY BESSIE BYRNE
When people get drunk they often turn ugly, doing and saying things they wouldn’t normally. Waking up the next day only to clean up the mess. These mistakes seem to often be accepted as part of the deal, the mere consequences of too much fun. The reason for this is that when you’re drunk the people around you most likely drunk and behaving badly too. The culturally accepted way to handle drunken incidents seems to be to laugh, wink and say no more. But is this really what socialising and friendship is about? People need to take more responsibility for their own drinking and look out for people around them.
On Saturday night, while I was working in the function room at an inner-city hotel, my life flashed in front of me as I had to call an ambulance for a man who appeared to be dead. I saw the fine for serving an intoxicated person, the fine for not having a current RSA and my boss firing me flash in front of my face, not to mention the horror at the thought I’d contributed to somebody’s death. The customer was lying on the ground, still as a rock with blood pouring out of his mouth. His mother hysterically crying. Luckily, the man eventually came around to consciousness and was okay. But I couldn’t help but thinking that we’d been lucky.
I’ve worked on the not so fun side of the bar for five years now. Serving drunk people week in, week out. I’ve seen people throw punches at strangers, cut friends with broken glass, vomit on the floor, and then yell at me for refusing to serve them more alcohol. According to VicHealth, alcohol was responsible for 24,714 hospital admissions in Victoria and 759 alcohol-related deaths in 2011” Sean O’Rourke, the senior project officer at VicHealth said.
Yet, Employees still see it as ‘easier’ to keep serving customers than to have to deal with cutting them off.
One of the main problems is that there is so much money to be made from selling alcohol. Drinking venues have a vested interest, and therefore cannot be assured to self regulating when it comes to ensuring lawful alcohol service practices. Management doesn’t encourage people to cut people off early because they leave and take their friends. Individuals need to take responsibility for alcohol service before something eventually does go wrong.
The reason there isn’t a movement to stop this is because it’s so socially acceptable. Alcohol is such an intrinsic part of Australian culture that people no longer see it as a choice. “In our eyes alcohol is not a choice, it’s a cultural expectation,” he said. Society encourages and glamorises binge drinking. “people see drinking alcohol as a normal, healthy choice” O’Rourke said.
Realistically, people aren’t proud and often drink to hide psychological problems. One reason excessive drinking is so culturally accepted is that people secretly want to bring other people down with them. People encourage each other to drink so that the mistakes they make will go unnoticed. “The harm alcohol causes is directly related to how common it is in our community” O’Rourke said.
Society needs to break down the social acceptance of unhealthy drinking. “Permanently reducing alcohol-related illness and accidents will require a range of coordinated initiatives, rather than one single approach. community organisations, alcohol manufacturers, retailers and suppliers, and individuals within the community need to be involved.” Sean O’Rourke said. We need to ensure everybody is educated on the ugly side of alcohol and stops encouraging others to binge drink. John Eyre the CEO of Arbias says people need to focus on harm minimisation principles, “recommending people know and understand the level of alcohol consumption that will likely do harm to the brain over a period of time and conversely the maximum levels that are unlikely to harm.”
Wake up and smell the vomit Victoria. Being drunk is not pretty. We
all need to make an effort to fight the unhealthy Australian drinking culture and urge friends family and even customers to drink less. Don’t like the disgraceful drunken pictures on facebook, buy your drunk friends ‘wet pussy’ shots or harass a friend when they have decided not to drink. Instead, help make an effort to change social acceptance of heavy drinking by educating yourself and others, whether they are family friends of simply customers, on the health and wellbeing consequences.