Most comprehensive booze injury study ever undertaken in Australia

Crowds in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley on a weekend. Photo: AFRAs debate about lockout laws continues, researchers from across Australia are working on the most comprehensive studies ever conducted into reducing alcohol-related injuries.

They’ll examine closing times, preloading, education, policing, ID scanning, patron banning and a host of other option in research stretching for four years.

The health experts started gathering early data at the beginning of this year but weren’t expecting to have initial results available until early next year.

Respected sociologist Professor Peter Miller is leading the research along with researchers from James Cook University, the universities of Queensland and Newcastle and several others.

They’re looking at prevention strategies from 11 different angles, including economic impact, foot traffic, patron experiences and hospital and police data

“This is going to be undoubtedly and by far the biggest and most comprehensive study of this type,” Professor Miller said.

Previous studies pointed overwhelmingly to a reduction in trading hours resulting in a reduction in harm to late-night revellers.

But the hotel industry raised concerns new laws introduced in Queensland would devastate the late-night economy in nightspots such as Fortitude Valley.

Six weeks on from the Palaszczuk government winding back closing hours to 2am (3am in entertainment precincts) and banning shots and other “rapid intoxication drinks” after midnight the effect was still impossible to judge, according to Professor Miller.

Completely anecdotally, police said assaults appeared to have gone down after a couple of weeks and hoteliers said takings were down in the first weekend.

When asked how much stock could be put in those assessments, Professor Miller was straight to the point: “None”.

The Deakin University Professor of Violence Prevention and Addiction Studies said he expected it would take six months at a bare minimum to see any meaningful trends emerge post law change.

“We see that change takes time,” he said.

“People don’t immediately change what they do and certainly we’ve been out interviewing for a while and we saw quite a few people pushing back and those people are purposely not changing their behaviour.”

His team began gathering data on the night-time economy – things like foot traffic and patronage – in January, with the study beginning in earnest mid-year.

“We’re out on the streets talking (to people) about their perceptions,” he said.

“We’re going to be doing web-based studies into people’s’ experience and of course, all of the hard data, all of the core stuff around assaults and deaths and injuries and ambulance attendances.”

He expected an interim report to be available in September or October next year.

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