Horsham Rural City Council intervenes in risky youth drinking with $260,000 VicHealth grant

Photo: Angela Wylie
Photo: Angela Wylie

HORSHAM Rural City Council will try to prevent risking drinking from becoming the norm among the region’s young people.

VicHealth has provided $260,000 for Horsham council to work with teenagers and target the supply of alcohol to underage people in Horsham.

Horsham council was given a $25,000 grant in October to study young people’s attitude towards alcohol.

The study identified important gendered differences for teenagers in the rural setting of Horsham:

  • Female teens were more likely to ‘pre-load’, choosing higher-strength drinks earlier in the evening, however females are more likely to cease drinking earlier.
  • Male teens were more likely to choose lower strength drinks and drink for longer periods of time. Many identified being capable of sustained drinking in a party environment as important.
  • Physical injury was the key concern for male teens, including performing risky acts to impress peers and using social media to share with a wider audience.

Horsham council will work with research partner Federation University as well as community groups, schools, parents and secondary school students to deliver Rural Youth Action – Challenging Alcohol Norms (RyACAN).

Horsham council community services director Kevin O’Brien said the new project aimed to use the arts to increase conversations about alcohol between parents and secondary school students, and increase social support for low-risk drinking.

“Reducing the social acceptability of risky drinking is key to changing the drinking culture in our community” Mr O’Brien said.

“Our scoping research showed many young people in Horsham viewed alcohol as a way to have fun where there are limited options for entertainment. Unfortunately for most local teenagers and young adults, drinking until you are drunk is not only accepted but even in many cases expected.

“We know teenagers are most likely to be supplied alcohol by older siblings, friends and their parents – the people also most likely to shape and influence their behaviour.

“Our project includes a youth-driven parent education program using school theatre, art and music, a parent support network, a community awareness campaign, and a range of binge-drinking deterrent activities” he said.

VicHealth chief executive Jerril Rechter said the RyACAN project aimed to increase social support for low-risk drinking and change the culture of harmful drinking among some young people.

“Our research shows 40 per cent of young adults feel obliged to drink alcohol when people around them are drinking,” she said.

“We need to help young people understand you don’t have to drink to have a good time or fit in, we  all have a role to play in being better role models for the youth of today.

“This initiative is all about developing locally-driven solutions to tackle harmful drinking cultures. Horsham Rural City Council will work with their local community to develop a range of strategies to tackle risky drinking in their area including working with schools, support networks, a community awareness campaign, and the use of the arts.”