The New Daily

Street violence: It’s not alcohol’s fault, it’s ours

Every New Year, we read of terrible incidents such as the one which left 18-year-old Daniel Christie fighting for his life. But if we’re looking to lay blame, we need look no further than ourselves, writes The New Daily Deputy Editor, Thomas Hunter.

Daniel Christie

Daniel Christie, fighting for his life after a New Year's attack. Photo: Facebook

· Thomas Kelly’s parents call for tougher sentencing laws
· Push to call change ‘king hits’ label to ‘coward punches’

Stories about people being beaten, stabbed, run over or maimed in entirely new ways on New Year’s Eve are a familiar post-script to a party with an invite list that numbers in the billions.

The stories never fail to shock and dismay. Today, the family of Daniel Christie, an 18-year-old Sydneysider clinging to life after being assaulted in Kings Cross, is facing an unwelcome 2014, one that includes doctors, medical bills, and most tragically, a lost future. There are many others around the nation confronting something similar.

When you mix millions of people with millions of litres of alcohol it’s unlikely that everybody will get home in one piece. Next year, or even next weekend, it could be me or one of my loved ones. It’s a risk we all confront, all the time.

It isn’t New Year’s Eve that causes it, and it isn’t alcohol. It is people.

But there was a miracle of survival on New Year’s Eve that has gone unreported – millions of us got home unscathed. Some of us drank so much that we can’t remember how we got there. Others arrived bruised, vowing never to drink again, but once back in the safety of our own homes we had only ourselves to blame.

It was because, basically, Australians are a civilised bunch. Only a vanishingly small number of us damage someone else while we’re too drunk to know better.

But no sooner have we finished reading the stories of human carnage from New Year’s Eve than we get the calls for tighter control of alcohol, curfews, raising the drinking age, tougher penalties for offenders and dry areas. Resolve, they say, is never stronger than the morning after the night before.

Those calls are well intentioned but none of them will deny our newspapers stories like Daniel’s. It isn’t New Year’s Eve that causes it, and it isn’t alcohol. It is people. It is us.


Daniel Christie. Photo: AAP

Read the news any day of the year and you will find stories of people who’ve had their lives changed irrevocably by forces beyond their control. Inside the mind of a young man (typically) something snaps and someone is left on the ground, in an ambulance, or on a hospital bed.

While alcohol and party nights like New Year’s Eve can be controlled — to some extent — by liquor licensing laws or by putting more police on the street, we cannot expect a zero bad news society so long as we agree the peaceful majority should be able to get a drink. Like it or not, there will always be people who abuse that arrangement.

• What are your thoughts? Leave a comment here

It’s the intersection of the Venn diagram we’re trying to control, the tiny space, the fraction of a second, in which the tendencies of Daniel’s alleged attacker overlap with booze and the moment to create a tragedy. Maybe at some future time there will be treatment for that sort of potential, but right now it’s a fact of life.

Less than two years after 18-year-old Thomas Kelly was killed in similarly circumstances, New South Wales, in particular, knows it must find new ways to handle that reality. The state knows it will not solve it by using law enforcement alone. A solution will not be found in time for New Year’s Eve 2014. It will not be found on the streets of Kings Cross. More likely it will be found in the slower, softer work of changing how we think of ourselves and how we observe our respect for others. It will be changed in living rooms and classrooms, and possibly courtrooms.

Our cities can always improve how they manage risk. Our schools can work diligently to counter the thoughtlessness that enables violence. As citizens, we should support considered legislative change, better programs for targeting problem drinking and aggressive action to control blackspots.

But when the dark side of our national character dominates headlines, in our disapproval, in our shock, we should also acknowledge that the potential for disaster exists everywhere, always.

  • Marcos Gogolin

    Review our values, re-educate with ethics above all, more focus on the “inner-wisdom”; learning whilst questioning true value of power, money and knowledge without wisdom…

  • Mohammad Stacey

    “Alcohol doesn’t kill, people kill.” Where have I heard that before? Oh yes, “Guns don’t kill…”

    • M Lea

      I agree Mohammad and we the people who want change need to take action necessary to make change.

  • 4030jo

    Let’s stop talking about “king hits” and start talking about what these acts of unprovoked violence are “cowardly ambush attacks by sad pathetic losers ”

  • Kel

    Teach young people there are consequences for their actions. Too many parents are too quick to defend their kids at all costs instead of letting them face the music after playing up at school.

  • Ahjay

    As a younger man I grew up in a vastly different world. However I did go through the stage of drinking for all the wrong reasons, including the binge drinking. I was involved in fights,no boots,no weapons,never hit a man when he was down, (different world). As I matured,I woke up one morning,prepared myself for another wasted day of recovering from a massive hangover and “HELLO” a thought bubble appeared. Since that day I have continued to drink. However for the social side of things. I drink only mid-strength or light beer,no wine, no spirits, no hangovers. I also find I am more socially acceptable and respected by my peers. Also I feel I am more able to help others who are under the weather.

    Based on my own experience, I can think of no better solution to the current problem than to reduce the alcohol content of all alcohol to 2/3 of one standard drink. That way drinkers can enjoy their night as well as the next day,and,be less prone to violence. If you think you have something to prove,why not try to prove you can drink,enjoy yourself,yet avoid violence. You will certainly be a better person.

  • Soi Dog

    Why persecute the vast majority for the actions of a few? Persecute the few blockheads who breach society’s norms and legislatively mandate minimum sentences for alcohol fueled violence. What’s that I hear the chattering left wing class say “that experience shows this doesn’t help”-huh? You betcha it does-never known anyone in jail to king hit a member of the public outside jail.

  • Peter Kelly

    I am pretty sure all the people committing these violent acts are male aged 16-20 something. Alcohol and other behaviour altering substances do play a role but the main factor is the generic risk taking of young men. As usual the99.9% of us that can interact with society in a civilised way whether drinking or not will be penalised.

  • Kage

    Answers are pretty obvious. Shorter opening hours and enforce the licensing rules such as loss of licence if detected supplying alcohol to underage drinkers or serving those already inebriated. Stop advertising of alcohol using the same restrictions as those on tobacco. Get it through that alcohol is the most destructive drug available.

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