This was a national report from Australia that was picked up by the UK press looking at how children pay the highest price for inaction on alcohol-fuelled violence. The study found that more than a million children are currently harmed by other people’s drinking in Australia.
The hidden harm: Alcohol’s impact on children and families
Funded by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) and undertaken by the Centre for Alcohol Policy Research (CAPR), The hidden harm: Alcohol’s impact on children and families, reveals the full extent of alcohol-related family and domestic violence in Australia.
The 2015 study examined the prevalence and effects of heavy drinking on families and children, and the extent to which they persisted or changed over time.
It paints a concerning picture of the prevalence of alcohol-related family and domestic violence in Australia, shedding new light on a hidden dimension of alcohol harms that occurs largely behind closed doors.
The hidden harm draws on two national surveys of alcohol’s harm to others, service system data and qualitative interviews with families, providing for the first time a detailed and valuable insight into the magnitude of the problem and the large numbers of Australian children who are being put at risk.
- In 2011 there were 29,684 police-reported incidents of alcohol-related domestic violence in Australia, and that’s just in the four states and territories where this data is available.
- Children are being verbally abused, left in unsupervised or unsafe situations, physically hurt or exposed to domestic violence because of others’ drinking. Many were also witnessing verbal or physical conflict, drinking or inappropriate behaviour.
- Over a million children (22 per cent of all Australian children) are estimated to be affected in some way by the drinking of others (2008). 142,582 children were substantially affected (2008), and more than 10,000 Australian children are in the child protection system because of a carers drinking (2006-07).
The director of the McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth, Professor Mike Daube, said given the prime minister, Tony Abbott, had flagged domestic violence to be on the next Council of Australian Governments agenda, alcohol’s contribution should be a key part of that discussion.
He agreed with the report that action was needed politically on alcohol price, access, promotion and education.
“If ever a report deserved to be described as a wake-up call, this is it,” Daube said.
“The report shows the massive impacts of alcohol on others – especially children, women and families who are least able to protect themselves.
“The extent of the impacts should come as a shock, from domestic violence to child protection cases. Sadly, the figures provided are probably an underestimate.”
In 2012, a study from the Northern Territory also found high-risk drinking was linked with high rates of physical harm.
Published in the journal Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, it reported the incidence of alcohol-related trauma among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Northern Territory was the highest in the world.
A separate study published the same year in the journal Addiction found children were the victims of alcohol-related harm in more than one-fifth of Australian households.
The chief executive of Domestic Violence Victoria, Fiona McCormack, said it was a common myth that alcohol was the cause of family violence.
“Just because somebody drinks, it doesn’t mean they’re abusive, and abusive people don’t all abuse alcohol,” she said.
“We’ve got to be very clear that the causes of violence against women and children are primarily about sexist attitudes held by some men, and unequal power relations between men and women.”
However, alcohol was a contributing factor towards family violence, she said.
“It’s a welcome report, and it’s terrific to see so many different sectors working together to address the issue of family violence,” McCormack said.
I sincerely hope in this case that it isn’t an underestimate because 22% – over 1 in 5 of all Australian children – being affected is a truly shocking statistic …..