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The black fellas drink at the Crossing Inn
Where the mighty Fitzroy runs
And the river of grog fills the sad places in,
So many lost daughter and sons

If you spit, bite or humbug
Or fight with your fists
Or fall down unable to think
You'll be growled by the barmaid
Who'll say, "You're too pissed"
But she’ll still likely fix your next drink

James Fitzpatrick

Paediatrician James Fitzpatrick’s 2015 TEDx presentation outlines the terrible impact alcohol has on Aboriginal children and their parents in the remote Western Australian township of Fitzroy Crossing. He makes a powerful case for programs driven by the local Aboriginal community to address the culture of alcohol consumption within their community. 

 

Order of Australia recipient, Professor Elizabeth Elliott, has been a pioneer in foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) in Australia. In her presentation she outlines the clinical aspects of FASD. 

She also calls on Australia to change its drinking culture for the sake of the next generation. Australia has made great strides in public health over the past 30 years from gun control to reducing smoking levels. The challenge is whether the same can be done for alcohol consumption. 

In the face of vested commercial interests it is hard to drive this as a political process. The recent partial reversal of Sydney’s lockout laws, while welcomed by the hospitality industry, remains strongly opposed by those Emergency Department doctors who have to deal with the resulting morbidity and mortality from excess alcohol.

Elliott argues for a grassroots approach which has worked in the Aboriginal communities of the Kimberley. The challenge is to reproduce that success around the country. 

Alcohol has terrible consequences for the children of many Australian families and there are early signs that the community and the kids aren’t going to take it anymore.