The Cronulla Race Riots : the day the world saw the savage, ugly face of alcohol-fueled violence in Australia
The British still lead the world for alcohol-related violence, abuse and psychotic levels of binge-drinking. But Australians are rapidly closing the gap :
When I was a kid growing up in Sydney's western suburbs, not only was gutter-crawling alcoholism socially acceptable, stumbling drunk children were a perfectly reasonable source of comedy at school and town fetes and local rugby league games. Booze-soaked domestic violence was nothing out of the ordinary. The beaten wife was usually regarded as the problem, not the heavy drinking husband.
The Alcohol Education and Rehabilitation Foundation (AER) says the level of alcohol abuse in Australia is unacceptable, and it is causing more harm than tobacco smoking.
A study commissioned by the AER asked 1,000 people about their experiences with alcohol over the Chrismas-New Year period.
Head of the foundation, Daryl Smeaton, says in that time 2.2 million Australians over the age of 14 experienced physical or verbal abuse from someone who had been drinking.
"It's involved in so much family violence and sexual assault and child abuse," he said.
"It is the major contributor to harms from personal assaults, it still contributes to 30 per cent of the deaths from motor vehicle accidents."
Mr Smeaton says the Federal Government has already identified alcohol as one of the main causes of chronic disease.
"They need to go further, they need to acknowledge that alcohol is the number one health and social problem in Australia," he said.
He says the first step is restricting the trading hours of bars, to prevent drunk people congregating on the streets late at night.
I still remember adults in the local supermarket gossiping about a young woman doing her weekly shopping whose entire face was black, blue and purple. Her husband was a known violent alcoholic, but was usually referred to as "a bloody great bloke".
"She shouldn't wind him up like she does," one of the gossiping, older woman said about the savagely beaten young woman. "But she'll learn."
Her husband beat her to death a few years later.
It's a rare day indeed that you see headlines containing the words 'Cannabis Fueled Violence'.
Alcohol Use Amongst Adolescents Linked To Violent, Suicidal Behaviour
Alcohol Fuels Nationwide Violence