Public health policy consultant Margo Saunders yesterday issued a challenge to universities and public health types to tackle drinking cultures in universities, as exemplified by a current promotion for Jim Beam on Campus.
Cath Peachey, CEO of DrinkWise Australia (an organisation that has sustained occasional fire from Croakey contributors), is taking up the discussion.
She would like to see some of Croakey’s regular public health correspondents use their influence within their own universities to deter such promotions. (According to the promotion’s website, the universities involved in its Oktoberfest include Adelaide, ANU, Griffith at Gold Coast and Nathan, JCU, LaTrobe, Newcastle, Curtin, QUT, NSW, USyd, UWA and Wollongong).
Cath Peachey writes:
DrinkWise is working to improve Australia’s drinking culture so that consuming alcohol too young and to excess is considered undesirable. The organisation has made a long term commitment to work collaboratively to raise awareness of the patterns of drinking that lead to harm.
Margo Saunders, in her feature on Jim Beam on Campus (JBOC) in yesterday’s Croakey post, surmised that ‘it is difficult to see how industry sponsored drinking parties for university students are consistent with the DrinkWise aims.
We do not host nor support such initiatives and will raise these concerns with those companies who undertake this form of promotion.
The organisation is serious about delivering on its commitments. In addition to running long-term, sustained national education and information campaigns that seek to effect generational change in the way Australians drink, DrinkWise does speak out on practices that normalise or sustain a binge drinking culture.
We share Ms Saunders’ concerns about alcohol sponsorship and promotion in university settings. We know that universities are a setting where risky drinking takes place.
In fact, we are collaborating with Macquarie University on a three-stage, three-year study of campus attitudes, behaviours and practices towards alcohol with the aim of producing a transportable model for managing alcohol in campus environments. Macquarie University is tackling alcohol misuse head on – they recognise that their institution caters largely to young people at a key developmental stage in their lives, when their views and habits around alcohol are forming. They acknowledge their duty of care to provide those students with a safe and healthy learning environment.
Other universities could follow Macquarie’s lead and alter their policies in relation to such promotions on their campuses.
I note that some of Croakey’s regular public health correspondents hold very senior positions within some of the universities identified as participating in the JBOC promotion. We would call on them to use their influence within their own institution to deter these sorts of promotions.
We recognise that changing our drinking culture is going to take time.
Productive partnerships between government, health, education, industry and the community will better enable delivery of the mix of outputs required to drive change to our drinking culture.
We are funded with voluntary contributions from the alcohol industry but maintain our independence and objectivity.