from yaprap June-July 2011
by Isabel Seidel
yaprap Feature Writer
Many people in our community don’t think of alcohol as a drug, but it can be just as damaging as other drugs. The Drink Safe Community Initiative was a two-year project with the aim of reducing youth binge drinking in the local government area of Broken Hill. Located in outback NSW, Broken Hill has a population of 19,000 people. The beautiful outback landscape has inspired many artists over the years. Inspiration can also be found in the local community in how it has dealt with the problem of binge drinking amongst young people. The driving force behind the Drink Safe Community initiative was the Broken Hill Community Drug Action Team (CDAT).
The CDAT is a group of community organisations that meet together to tackle local drug and alcohol problems. The group successfully applied to NSW Health for $236,000 under its Binge Drinking Funding Program. A unique part of the Drink Safe Community Initiative was the development of the Drink Safe Community Model. The model brought new and existing community drug and alcohol programs under a single brand – Drink Safe. The catchy Drink Safe slogan was used to promote community awareness and educate young people on the dangers of binge drinking. This marketing approach was very successful in engaging the community and publicising the many programs that were implemented under the model. The Drink Safe programs were implemented in the community as well as both primary and high schools in Broken Hill, Menindee and Wilcannia.
The programs included:
Community Drink Safe celebration – A 2 day community event that brought together families and young people, with amusement rides, performers and local bands, and a marquee with Drink Safe workers, who were able to talk to parents and hand out resources about the many programs that were up and running. It was a great way of engaging the community and recruiting people to the programs. It is hoped the festival will become a bi-annual event in Broken Hill.
The Good Sports Program – Aims to encourage sporting clubs to adopt responsible alcohol management practices. Information was handed out to local clubs in Broken Hill. However, more resources are needed to support sporting clubs wanting to implement the program.
Social Marketing Campaign – Local media in Broken Hill got the Drink Safe message out to the public on the dangers of binge drinking.
Community Information resources – Banners and brochures were developed. A variable message sign trailer (VMS) was purchased, to give the community up-to-date statistics on local alcohol consumption and inform the community of reductions in alcohol related incidents. The positive messages displayed on the VMS were a great way of giving the community a pat on the back for all their hard work.
Drug & alcohol free entertainment events – Band nights were organised with funding from the Music NSW Indent program.
National Drug Action Week – The CDAT promoted this national week in the community to raise awareness about drug and alcohol issues. A poster competition was held for year 9 students.
Brain Spectrum – This was a successful early intervention program that shows what drinking excessively does to the human brain. It was delivered to year 5 and 6 students.
Save a Mate Program - A program delivered to year 9 students to teach them first aid skills to help friends and family affected by alcohol. Community members are going to be trained to deliver the program this year to ensure the program can be sustained. The program was well received by young people because of its practical component.
Drug and Alcohol Forums – Speakers such as Chris Rain (who wrote the Hello Sunday Morning blog (www.hellosundaymorning.com) spoke to year 11 and 12 students about why it is uncool to drink to excess.
Safe Passage Program – A DVD program teaching parents how to parent. The program has 8 sessions and was successfully run at Broken Hill High School.
Yr 12 Schoolies Party Safe Packs – The packs were popular among the schoolies, the year 12 graduates - they contained information and resources on safe partying. To help sustain the program, enough packs were purchased to last about 3 years.
Mynite Safe Party Pack – Young people were encouraged to register upcoming parties on the Mynite NSW Police website (www.mynite.com.au). However, police needed to be more involved for this to be successful. Sometimes the police that were on a shift did not know about it. It’s a great program that needs more resources behind it for it to work.
Overall, the Drink Safe Community Initiative was successful in reducing binge drinking in young people aged 12-24 years. There were a number of outcomes achieved such as:
- changes in community attitudes and acceptance of safe levels of drinking;
- decreased reported youth alcohol related crime; and
- decreased reported youth alcohol related emergency department presentations.
Even with such positive outcomes there were still challenges. One of the biggest was that the CDAT had lost some members. Scott Hammond, the Chairperson of CDAT, said that because CDAT is a volunteer committee you have to expect some changes from time to time. For the model to be sustainable, a full time project officer is needed. The group made sure that a number of programs were self-sustaining. One of the strengths of the model was the involvement of schools, which play an important role in the sustainability of the model as some of the programs are included in the school curriculum and staff are trained to be able to run them again.
On a final note, the Drink Safe Community Initiative is an excellent example of how community organisations in Broken Hill worked together to reduce binge drinking in their community. The model is flexible and adaptable. Perhaps it could be used to tackle other social problems in other communities? It also demonstrates the benefit of youth workers getting involved in community groups such as CDAT.
Drink Safe: If you’re interested in finding out how you can use the Drink Safe Model in your community have a chat to:
- Scott Hammond Youth Officer, Broken Hill City Council
- Ph: (08) 8080 3591 or mobile: 0439 632 463