Australia doesn’t have an alcohol problem, we have a violence problem.


After the devastating events of last week, Cole Miller now joins Bruce Steensen, Matthew Stanley, Wayne Dover, Trevor Duroux and an impossibly long list of others whose lives have been senselessly taken with one ‘alcohol-fuelled’ punch.

But is alcohol really the problem here? Cole Miller also joins a much longer list of people who have fallen victim to Australia’s insidious culture of violence, whether it be alcohol-fuelled, domestic or sexual violence. When the word alcohol-fuelled gets thrown in the mix, I can’t help but feel slightly at a loss. Drunk or sober, I can’t imagine ever hurting someone, much less actively looking for a victim. This is a feeling I’m sure is shared by many Australians who could never imagine being the perpetrator of a violent crime.

"So why are we still calling it 'alcohol-fuelled'? Using this word in front of violence becomes a qualifier of sorts that removes some sense of responsibility from the perpetrator and from the community that allow this behaviour to be perpetuated"

The concept that people who are violent under the influence of alcohol are likely to be violent when sober is not a new one. In 2013 The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that “alcohol is neither a necessary nor a sufficient cause of aggression” and explained there are more likely causes of aggressive behaviour, including specific personality traits. As opposed to alcohol, one factor which was found to be a prominent cause of aggression was “praise of hyper-masculine identity”.

In 2015 the idea “macho” culture may be to blame for high levels of nightlife violence was supported by the work of anthropologist Dr Anne Fox. In a report for Lion, Dr Fox found that in Australia features of hyper-masculinity included entitlement, pride, honour, competition, fighting, racism and misogyny.

So why are we still calling it 'alcohol-fuelled'? Using this word in front of violence becomes a qualifier of sorts that removes some sense of responsibility from the perpetrator and from the community that allow this behaviour to be perpetuated. At the end of the day, Australia has a problem with violence in general. And more specifically, statistically speaking, we have a problem with male violence.  

So where do we go to from here? How do we minimise violence in Australia? Lock-out laws have been suggested as one approach. However, when you consider that according to the Queensland Governments One Punch statistics 71% of these attacks happen between 10pm and 4am, with 34% of overall attacks occurring between 10pm and 12am, it makes these measures seem weak, detrimental to businesses if not actively exacerbating the problem by pushing all the drunk, angry people onto the streets at the same time.

Trying to fight a deep-seeded culture of aggression with lock-out laws is just putting a Band-Aid on a much bigger issue. For some absolutely ludicrous reason we have made violence and ego synonymous with masculinity.  This idea is not only damaging but, quite frankly, archaic and belittles our male population.

This belief is only further encouraged by little idiosyncrasies that have embedded themselves in our cultural rhetoric like the phrase “man up”, “grow some balls”, “don’t be a pussy” or “be a man” when faced with confrontational situations. This sort of language only contributes to the problem as they support the notion that hyper-masculinity is superior.

While it may seem strange to focus so strongly on language rather than law, as Australians we all need to make it known that any violence on any level is unacceptable and the way we do that is through our actions every day.

Following Cole Miller’s death, there was a flood of outrage online at the fact that such a senseless and unprovoked attack could occur. This was a completely appropriate and understandable response to a heinous crime. But what wasn’t acceptable was the slew of online abuse and aggression directed towards the alleged offenders that included everything from suggesting rape as a suitable punishment to threats of physical violence. This highlights the prevailing idea that illegal malicious violence is somehow differentiated from righteous, vengeful violence and a violent display should rightfully be punished by sexual domination and more violence. This sort of aggressive online abuse as a response to emotional situations only continues a cycle of violence that Australia desperately needs to end.

In her report Dr Anne Fox offers a proposal on how we should deal with our violence problem:  “The only reasonable suggestion is to find ways of socialising young males into adopting non-violent responses to provocation and to associate restraint with status, respect and manliness.” Essentially, there is no quick fix, but there are long term solutions. In schools we teach kids about safety and how to stop themselves becoming victims of violent crimes, but we also need to be teaching them how to handle their emotions when provoked. We need to stop saying “boys will be boys” when little boys bully or hurt their peers. We need to stop using alcohol as an excuse for aggressive behaviour. We need to stop telling men its “feminine” to be caring, compassionate and to talk about their emotions. And finally we need to make it known that being violent and aggressive does not make you attractive, it does not make people respect you, it makes you weak. Because I am sick of seeing young415 Sandgate rd probably give me halfalives lost because of ego. 

 Editor's Note: this article initially mentioned Luke Adams had lost his life due to a coward punch. This has since been corrected.