Monday, January 11, 2010

We're Queensland's Biggest Drinkers

Sunshine Coast Daily

GOLDEN beaches, beautiful weather, rivers of booze.

It is unlikely this description will ever find its way on to a Sunshine Coast tourism brochure.

However, some would argue it is apt in light of an alarming new report which found the Coast is lagging behind the rest of the state when it comes to alcohol-free days.

The 2009 Queensland Health report found 65.6% of Coast residents have at least five alcohol-free days, compared with the state average of 70.1%.

The Coast figure is the worst in the state.

Coast-based responsible-drinking campaigners were not surprised by the figures, saying the region has a drinking mentality in keeping with its laid-back lifestyle.

Dave, the past district officer of Alcoholics Anonymous on the Coast, said the Queensland Health report was a further sign the authorities needed a new strategy in dealing with what the region’s “escalating” alcohol problem.

He said police too readily turned a blind eye to public drinking, especially at parks.

“We quite often go down to Happy Valley on a Sunday for coffee, and when I look around the park they’d be two families not drinking out of 60 families – and usually most people there are families,” he said.

“They say you’re not allowed to drink in public, but you drive around any park anywhere on the Sunshine Coast and people are drinking.

“You don’t have to be a statistician to realise alcohol consumption here is huge.”

Associate professor David Ward is a specialist emergency physician at Nambour General Hospital who speaks regularly on the negative impact of Australia’s drinking culture on society.

Dr Ward sees first-hand the devastating effects of alcohol on society and said the current approach to dealing with the problem was not working.

“Certainly, at the hospital we see the end point of it – the amount of road-trauma accidents and other accidents relating to alcohol,” he said. “If anything, it’s deteriorating.”

Most Coast residents who spoke to the Daily yesterday admitted to drinking every day.

Mal O’Malley, of Maroochydore, works in the building industry and said he liked a drink each day.

“If I’m working, I’ll probably have three schooners in the afternoon and go home and have one or two,” he said.

“On the weekend it’s different – I drink more.”

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