Alcohol and crime


From the time that Europeans first brought alcohol to this country it has rapidly become embedded in the lifestyle of a substantial proportion of Australia's population. Alcohol consumption, and especially that of beer, has on numerous occasions been referred to as the great Australian pastime. The popular image of Australia's beer-swilling, pot-bellied "Norm" is in many ways an authentic caricature and indeed one that many Australians seem proud of. Drinking alcohol is frequently perceived as ordinary, every day activity, while regular drunkenness is portrayed, at least by some, as one prominent trait of the stereotypical "macho Aussie guy".

The unfortunate reality is, however, that these images create a mask which obscures the severe abuse of alcohol that has been happening in this country over many decades. This abuse has occurred in association with the dubious honour gained by Australia of having the highest rate of consumption of alcohol in the English-speaking world.

There are many social, economic and political repercussions that flow from a high national level of alcohol consumption. The connection between alcohol and crime, and especially violent crime, is one that has been the centre of considerable discussion both within Australia and overseas.

This report presents a timely review of this connection which is, among other things, also the subject of current scrutiny of the National Committee on Violence established recently by joint initiative of all Australian governments.