I Felt Safer Sending My Teenagers To Sydney With Lockout Laws
In 2012, on his first night out to Kings Cross, 18 year-old Thomas Kelly was punched in the head as a result of a random attack.
He fell backwards, the impact of the fall causing severe head injuries. After two days on life support, he tragically passed away.
A year and a half later, 18 year-old Daniel Christie was killed by a single punch to the head in another unprovoked attack, also at Kings Cross, an area notorious for alcohol-fuelled violence.
The deaths of both Thomas and Daniel sparked a momentum that led to stricter laws around violent offences fuelled by alcohol, as well as implementing legislation which saw no entry into establishments after 1.30am and no alcohol to be served after 3am.
Despite these laws contributing to an improvement in alcohol-related violence in Sydney’s CBD, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says it’s time for the controversial laws to be dramatically rolled back to strengthen the night-time economy, with the lockouts to be lifted in the CBD, but remain in place for Kings Cross.
This decision has businesses celebrating, with one venue owner claiming “good riddance” to the legislation and looking forward to a rebirth of a city which once thrived, but is now said to have become a Saturday night ghost town.
It’s not that I don’t understand how the lockout laws are contributing to the downfall of Sydney’s economy and its late night culture. I understand the unfairness of it all. The frustration of last drinks being served at 3am only to get home and realise you forgot to buy more wine pre-10pm. How annoying it must be to not be able to get a burger from your favourite fast-food joint on your way home because it’s already closed for the night. The exasperation of getting kicked out of the club before dawn.
Me? I live in a small rural community which houses two pubs that both close by 1.30am -- an improvement on the 12am curfew we locals lived with for many decades prior. It’s not a big deal; if patrons wish to continue drinking after closing time, they head home to do so. After all, nothing good happens after 2 am anyway, right?
In all seriousness, I agree there is injustice in venue owners and their patrons being forced to suffer the repercussions of a small minority of the population who have chosen to do the wrong thing. But these laws have been administered in a way that seeks to place the value of human life over economic gain; to proactively embark upon a solution to prevent more mindless deaths caused by alcohol-fuelled violence from occurring.
Is our sense of entitlement really so great that we’d prefer to preserve our social lives over the lives of innocent people lost to these acts of violence?
As a parent of two nearly 18-year-old sons, I can’t even imagine the grief of witnessing their lives ending just as they were beginning from a senseless act of random violence on a busy city street at the hands of someone who’d had too much to drink. I want them to visit cities at night; to have the freedom to enjoy their social lives and not be inhibited by the fears and dangers of a society with a major drinking problem and the repercussions that we have seen because of that.
We can argue the point that alcohol-fuelled violence will occur anyway; and does. But we can’t argue the statistics that show since these laws were introduced, alcohol-related assaults have decreased by 42 percent in the CBD, and over 60 percent in Kings Cross, with St Vincent’s Hospital stating they had not seen one alcohol-related death since the laws came into being -- statistics that, as parents, make us more likely to allow our teenagers out on the town knowing the probability of alcohol-fuelled violence has significantly lessened because of this legislation.
Stuart Kelly, the younger brother of one-punch victim Thomas, presented a speech to 700 people, declaring Australia to be an alcoholic before sadly taking his own life. The previous year, 11,789 young people ended up in emergency departments from excess alcohol consumption -- approximately 230 each week.
The president of the Australian Medical Association said the rolling back of these laws was a “poor" choice to a successful preventative health measure, claiming this appears to be the Government prioritising business over public health.
St Vincent's Hospital spokesperson David Faktor said, "We don't believe the answer to reinvigorating Sydney's night-life is turning the beer taps on 24/7. We need to be a better society than that."
The purpose of Sydney’s lockout laws aren’t to stop people enjoying a night out in the city, but to create a responsible culture around alcohol use.
Regardless of your personal views, they have proven successful in preventing more lives being lost through senseless alcohol-fuelled violence and crime, creating a safer society for everyone.
How many one-punch deaths are too many for us to consider if the potential for economic gain is really worth reintroducing a “conveyor belt of carnage” into our emergency departments again?