IN DEPTH

Alcohol related violence in the Central Tablelands

VIOLENCE: Police Association and and crisis supporter have their say on alcohol related violence. Photo: FILE
VIOLENCE: Police Association and and crisis supporter have their say on alcohol related violence. Photo: FILE

Alcohol has been involved in hundreds of domestic and non-domestic assaults in this region, but is booze to blame for the violence? We spoke to police and drug and alcohol experts to find out.

ALCOHOL is significantly involved in violence in the community, with the drug a factor in around one-third of domestic and non-domestic assaults across the region.

Dubbo might have more than double the number of domestic assaults than any other location in the Central West, but far less of them are alcohol related.

In the 12 months to September 2018, there were 663 domestic assaults in Dubbo with 21.3 per cent of them alcohol related, data from the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research shows.

By comparison there were far less domestic assaults during the same time period in the Mid-Western council area at 147, but 38.8 per cent of them involved alcohol.

In Bathurst 33.3 per cent of the 213 assaults involved alcohol, it was less in Orange (31.2 per cent of 269 assaults) and Lithgow (28.8 per cent of 118 assaults).

For non-domestic assaults, alcohol was a factor in 28.3 per cent (Dubbo) to 37.8 per cent (Mudgee) of incidents across these local government areas.

Senior Constable Adam Piffarelli is also the Police Association of NSW Orange branch chair.

Senior Constable Adam Piffarelli is also the Police Association of NSW Orange branch chair.

Senior Constable Adam Piffarelli is among the frontline emergency service workers who are called to many of these assaults.

"It's at least one every day," he said.

"What people do when they're sober is different to what they do when alcohol is involved. It changes the behaviour of people.

What people do when they're sober is different to what they do when alcohol is involved. It changes the behaviour of people.

Police Associatino of NSW Orange branch chair and Senior Constable Adam Piffarelli

"It gives them the old Dutch courage and they think that they can take on others and they'll win."

For victims of domestic assault, Snr Const Piffarelli said the violence often happens in the home which give the perpetrator an advantage.

"In a home they know they layout of the house and they have easier access to weapons or to give themselves an advantage," he said.

Snr Const Piffarelli is also the Police Association of NSW Orange branch chair and he is often the person fellow officers turn to about violence they witness or are victim of during a call out.

"You see people lose control a lot quicker and they fly off the handle a lot quicker," he said of the violence victims and police officers witness.

"With alcohol related violence, a lot of the time they [the perpetrator] don't know what they're having an issue with.

"The main thing we've got to look out for is body language [of the violent person], which is different when alcohol is involved."

Booze shouldn't be used as an excuse for violence

THERE'S HELP: Lifeline Central West chief executive officer Stephanie Robinson. Photo: CHRIS SEABROOK 092519clifeln2

THERE'S HELP: Lifeline Central West chief executive officer Stephanie Robinson. Photo: CHRIS SEABROOK 092519clifeln2

ALCOHOL does not make a person violent but it certainly adds fuel to issues that are already there, Lifeline Central West chief executive officer Stephanie Robinson says.

She is among a dedicated group of people who volunteer their time in this region, and right across Australia, to answer calls from people in a crisis.

Those calls can be about a range of issues - from depression to loneliness, gambling and suicide, and alcohol is often a factor in why those people call.

While Lifeline doesn't offer specific alcohol abuse counselling, the telephone crisis supporters are often the first the first call made by victims of alcohol related domestic violence.

Ms Robinson does not believe alcohol causes people to be violent, but said it certainly helps to fuel the violence

"Domestic violence is the fire that's burning away and alcohol is like adding fuel to that fire," she said.

Alcohol is often used as an excuse, sometimes by the victim and sometimes by the perpetrator.

Lifeline Central West chief executive officer Stephanie Robinson

"Alcohol is often used as an excuse, sometimes by the victim and sometimes by the perpetrator."

From her years of answering crisis calls for Lifeline, Ms Robinson said alcohol related violence often becomes worse around pay day because suddenly there's more money and for some people alcohol will be the first thing purchased.

"Often there's not enough money left over for food and then there's explosions," she said.

"This can increase in domestic and family violence around pay days."

Ms Robinson said it can be a vicious circle - domestic and family violence can lead to the victim or perpetrator drinking more, and more alcohol can just fuel the violence again.

"Society is too quick to dismiss bad behaviour because of alcohol," she said.

Lives Lived Well group manager (clinical services) Michele Campbell.

Lives Lived Well group manager (clinical services) Michele Campbell.

Lives Lived Well offers a range of alcohol rehabilitation and clinical support services across the region and group manager (clinical services) Michele Campbell has spoken to victims and perpetrators of alcohol related violence.

"As people's blood alcohol level goes up it can increase levels of a person's impulsivity and suicidal ideations [thoughts of suicide]," she said.

"Because people's inhibitions drop they increase their risky behaviour."

As people's blood alcohol level goes up it can increase levels of a person's impulsivity and suicidal ideations [thoughts of suicide].

Lives Lived Well group manager (clinical services) Michele Campbell

Ms Campbell said there are signs when alcohol has become a problem for a person.

"Anything over four standard drinks in any one sitting a few times a week," she said.

"Also when it impacts on everyday living, or if you've been caught DUI [driving under the influence].

"Some people do drink every day and they start developing a tolerance and that can impact on their lives and their relationships."

Those impacted by someone who drinks too much are also encouraged to seek support through Lives Lived Well.

"Give us a call and have a chat to someone," Ms Campbell urged.

A Western NSW Local Health District spokeswoman said help is there for people who are unsure whether they have a problem with alcohol.

There are a number of signs and symptoms that a health professional can discuss with a person to identify if they have a problem related to their alcohol use.

Western NSW Local Health District spokeswoman

"There are a number of signs and symptoms that a health professional can discuss with a person to identify if they have a problem related to their alcohol use, and if they have developed a dependency on alcohol," she said.

Meanwhile, the spokeswoman said that during the next four years the NSW Government would invest more than $850 million in alcohol and other drug services statewide.

"This is the single biggest investment in drugs and alcohol since the NSW drug summit in 1999," she said.

Where to find help

VIOLENCE: Alcohol is involved in around one-third of domestic and non-domestic assaults, data from the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research shows. Photo: FILE

VIOLENCE: Alcohol is involved in around one-third of domestic and non-domestic assaults, data from the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research shows. Photo: FILE

ALCOHOL is a very widely used drug, and has become part of the social and sporting culture.

The Drug and Alcohol Helpline (DAH) can be contacted on 1300 887 000 during business hours or contact your local hospital or health facility. Services include triage, full assessment, counselling and referrals to other support services.

Family members are also welcome to all the DAH helpline to speak to a local drug and alcohol clinician for support.

The Family Drug Support Australia also supports families affected by drugs and alcohol. Help is available 24 hours seven days a week by calling 1300 368 186.

Some people do drink every day and they start developing a tolerance and that can impact on their lives and their relationships.

Lives Lived Well group manager (clinical services) Michele Campbell

People with alcohol and drug issues or concerns about someone else's alcohol and drug use can access after-hours support by calling the NSW Alcohol Drug Information Service (ADIS) on 1800 250 015.

Some of the smaller hospitals across the region also provide alcohol withdrawal services.

Lives Lived Well offers a range of services in Lithgow, Orange and Dubbo as well as mobile program.

Within its programs is a 10-bed withdrawal units, residential rehabilitation centres, day programs, outreach services and the Elouera (women's program).

For more information on programs run through Lives Lived Well or to make an appointment call 1300 596 366 or email enquiries@liveslivedwell.org.au.

Visit NSW Health at https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/aod/Pages/default.aspx to find out more.

For help in a crisis call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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This story Alcohol involved in one-third of assaults, but is booze to blame? first appeared on Daily Liberal.