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Curtin University
National Drug Research Institute

Preventing Harmful Drug Use In Australia

Media Release

Date: Monday, 12 July 2010

Voluntary alcohol restrictions lead to big drop in assaults and hospital admissions

Voluntary alcohol restrictions requested by the local Aboriginal community and supported by the whole community - in particular the local publican - have led to a 60% decrease in alcohol-related hospital admissions and a 17% reduction in assaults in a regional Western Australian town.

The Evaluation of the Norseman Voluntary Liquor Agreement, released today [Monday 12 July] by the National Drug Research Institute (NDRI), found that a 12-month trial of the restrictions also resulted in a 10% reduction in police tasks and a 10% decrease in per capita alcohol consumption. Local authorities also reported less violence and public drunkenness and improved health and nutrition among residents. Norseman is 720km east of Perth and 200km south of Kalgoorlie.

NDRI researcher Andreia Schineanu said the evaluation demonstrated that alcohol restrictions that have been instigated and supported by the community can be very effective in minimising the harms resulting from alcohol misuse.

"The Norseman Voluntary Liquor Agreement is unique in that the Norseman Aboriginal Community worked voluntarily with the local licensee to instigate change, rather than trying to declare a dry area or to use liquor licensing legislation to enforce restrictions, as has occurred elsewhere in Australia," she said.

The restrictions, introduced in March 2008, limited the sale of particular cask and fortified wines to a 6-hour period each day. Quantities were also restricted.

The Norseman Aboriginal Community initiated the alcohol restrictions as the first step to addressing health and social issues in their community. The trial was so successful that the restrictions have been made permanent and, at the suggestion of the Norseman Hotel licensee, have been expanded to include two more products.

Alcohol Education and Rehabilitation Foundation (AER) Deputy Chairman, Scott Wilson said: "AER would like to congratulate NDRI on the extensive work it has carried out in Norseman as part of the AER-funded Kalgoorlie Alcohol Action Project."

"AER acknowledges the collaborative effort between all community stakeholders in Norseman, who worked together to implement these voluntary alcohol restrictions."

"The outcomes of this exercise are further evidence that positive change can be achieved when initiatives are led by those directly affected within the community. The project has been a great success, with a significant reduction in alcohol-related harms in Norseman and a community-wide commitment to achieving long-term positive change."

The evaluation found that in the 12-month trial of alcohol restrictions, there was:

  • A 60.5% decrease in the number of alcohol related hospital admissions from 38 to 15 admissions. Emergency Department presentations due to alcohol-related violence in the local Aboriginal population completely ceased.
  • A 17.5% reduction in assaults, from 40 cases to 33, and a 15.3% decrease in domestic violence incidences, from 46 cases to 39.
  • An overall 10.3% reduction in total police tasks attended, from 165 tasks to 148.
  • A decrease in per capita alcohol consumption of 9.84%, with most of the decrease in cask red wine, fortified wine and ready-to-drink spirits.
  • Increases in people voluntarily seeking early health care, such as residents having themselves and their children immunised with the flu vaccine and regular blood glucose testing for diabetics.
  • Improvements in nutrition, such as regularly eating breakfast, and an increase in participation in family, community and sporting activities.
  • Decreases in violence, arguments and public drunkenness.

NDRI researcher Andreia Schineanu said the next step for the Norseman Community was to get government support for a permanent, locally based alcohol and other drugs worker to help the community expand its capacity to solve alcohol and other drug-related problems.

The National Drug Research Institute (NDRI) is based at Curtin University in Perth.

Further Information:

Andreia Schineanu
Research Fellow, National Drug Research Institute
Curtin University
Mobile: 61 (0) 405 774 105

Claye Polletti
Licensee, Norseman Hotel
Mobile: 61 (0) 419 900 292

Mark Tobiason
Norseman Police Officer-in-charge
Phone: 61 (0)8 9039 1000

Rachael Lobo
Communications Officer, National Drug Research Institute
Curtin University
Mobile: 0414 682 055

Note to Editors: Click link for the report, "Don't Wake Up Angry No More" - The Evaluation of the Norseman Voluntary Liquor Agreement.