The regulation of the supply of liquor is an important method of minimising injury and violence as a result of alcohol consumption. The Amendments to the Liquor Licensing Act of 1998 in Western Australia created new opportunities for communities and public health practitioners to have input into the liquor licensing decisions of the Liquor Licensing Authority. Specifically, the role of the Executive Director of Public Health was enhanced in the Amendments.
With the enhanced role of the Executive Director of Public Health came the need for more specific information. Previous data available to the Executive Director was too general for individual licence applications and not available in a timely fashion.
Relevant information on alcohol-related harm at the local area level and at individual premises level was previously available for research purposes only and some limited operational purposes but not shared between key agencies ie health, police and liquor licensing.
Information needs of the community also increased with the changes to the Act. The need to inform the public of their rights under the Amendments also became relevant in order to fulfil the provisions of the Act.
The Gull case concerning the granting of a liquor licence to a petroleum company suggested that it was unclear as to what would be regarded as relevant evidence on harm in future similar cases.
The WA Liquor Licensing Demonstration Project aimed to service these new information needs, and to evaluate and improve on systems of dissemination.
Consultations with consumers and providers of data identified
a) willingness to share information across agencies
b) willingness for the data to be widely disseminated
c) broad consensus that the data on harm were useful to varying degrees for legal evidence, for policy and planning and for operational purposes.
A core data set has been identified for providing profiles of local areas in comparison with similar areas in terms of urban-rural location and for profiling individual licensed premises.
A complex but successful negotiation took place to draw up a legal framework to permit sharing of the data between agencies. A Memorandum of Understanding between the WA Police Service, the Health Department of WA and Curtin University was prepared with input from each legal department and signed by all parties in April 2000. Examples of these profiles are provided for Northbridge and Geraldton.
The WA Police used some of these data in a recent objection against extended trading hours for a prominent Northbridge hotel.
A new method for calculating 'service populations' (ie including tourists and excluding absentee residents) has been developed and presented to allow an estimation of per capita alcohol consumption at the local level.
The Your Right to Object kit was prepared by the Alcohol Advisory Council and widely disseminated throughout Western Australia. This kit informs community members of their rights under the Act with respect to making objections to liquor licensing applications. A number of key stakeholders were interviewed to establish the suitability and impact of this kit for community members. These key stakeholders provided positive feedback about the utility of the kit and made suggestions for improving its availability.
An Aboriginal version of the Your Right to Object kit was prepared in consultation with key Aboriginal people in the community. This version was trialed and endorsed by those people. Again suggestions were made on how to make the information more available and accessible to Aboriginal people.
Essentially the WA LLDP has set up structures which will enable the effective use of the harm minimisation objects of the amended Act. These include:
· a system to enable key government agencies to have access to local and up to date data on alcohol use and harm;
· two information resources to enable community members to influence licensing decisions; and
· training and support for community members who have been identified as most likely to be asked for information on dealing with problems from licensed premises.