Mandurah targets underage drinking

A new program has been launched in Mandurah to target underage drinking after statistics showed more than half of Mandurah’s teenagers were regular alcohol drinkers.

The City of Mandurah launched its ‘Our Mandurah Community Youth Alcohol Strategy’ in April. Part of the program is aimed at educating parents about the effects of alcohol on teenagers.

More than one third of Australian teenagers surveyed in a recent Deakin University study reported their parents provided them with alcohol. The study revealed underage drinking in Mandurah exceeded the national average by 13 per cent.

City of Mandurah Mayor Marina Vergone said it was a concerning statistic.

“Parents often say they provide alcohol to encourage moderate use at home. However, longitudinal evidence shows parents supervising alcohol is a risk factor for binge use,” she said.

“Research shows a protective effect and around a 20 per cent reduction in adolescent use when parents set rules that they will not supply or allow alcohol use at home for young people.”

McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth executive officer Julia Stafford said young people could be influenced by adults’ attitudes towards drinking.

“If you’ve got adults role modelling heavy drinking behaviour, they may also be supplying young people with alcohol, which obviously sends messages that drinking is normal – a part of socialising,” she said.

“For us to tackle the issue of young people underage drinking, we need to influence adults’ drinking attitudes and behaviours around alcohol.”

Program manager Anne Miller said it was difficult to explain why the number of underage drinkers in Mandurah was higher than the national average.

“The Mandurah community is being proactive in developing a strategy to work towards reducing the alcohol-related harm and the effects of alcohol misuse within the community,” she said.

“It is vitally important that (we) provide our young people with opportunities to gain accurate information about alcohol and its harms.”

Ms Miller said 25 per cent of people who sought help from Palmerston, an association that assists people affected by alcohol, were aged between age 14 and 24.

High rates of teenagers across WA have been taken to hospital because of alcohol.

St John Ambulance statistics show paramedics were called to treat almost 400 intoxicated children and teenagers in 2015.  More than half were taken to hospital and seven were children under the age of 12.

The Mandurah program will work with the Palmerston Association, School Drug Education and Road Aware, South Metropolitan Population Health Unit and the WA Police.

Metropolitan Community Services manager Bram Dickens said Palmerston Association would provide counselling and support services through the program for teens and their families affected by alcohol.

“We encourage parents to raise the issue with their child in a non-judgemental manner, expressing their concerns … and to contact us for support,” he said.

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