The Byron Shire, especially Byron Bay, is confronting a real crisis. Alcohol-related violence and associated harms are severely damaging our young people, our community and the lifestyle we love. We’re facing a problem that’s changing the very nature of our town.
Ugly drunken brawls have become a constant feature of weekend nights. People are seriously hurt, sexual assaults regularly occur and older residents, some who’ve lived here all their lives, are afraid to go into town on weekend nights.
The statistics tell a terrible story: Byron Bay is the third most violent place in NSW as far as alcohol related street violence is concerned. The number of assaults is three times the State average. The number of young women being sexually assaulted is double the average. People are having their young lives ruined by actual and feared violence, injury and criminal convictions.
At the heart of the problem is the dangerous over supply and availability of alcohol in the early hours of the morning and the lack of effective deterrence. We’re not talking about the responsible sale, supply and promotion of alcohol or people responsibly enjoying a few drinks and having fun.
What we’re witnessing is a culture of pre-loading, binge drinking and high levels of intoxication underpinned by the clear failure of legal Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) obligations by a small number of licensed premises. The all too predictable extreme levels of intoxication results in injury, vandalism and crime. Our town has become hostage to and disgraced by a primarily preventable wave of alcohol-fuelled harms.