You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘youth’ tag.

Best-night

Throughout the month of October, the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) is the Official On-Screen Charity Partner for the One Direction ‘Take Me Home’ Australian Tour. FARE will be screening video messages at concerts, as well as talking to parents and young people at the concerts about alcohol-free fun. I wrote this post for FARE’s blog, Drink Tank, to share what I would consider to be the best night of my life as a teenager – no alcohol was involved!

Explosive, unbridled, teenage hormone-fuelled excitement doesn’t even come close to describing how I felt the day my parents agreed to let me go to my first live music concert.

I cried tears of joy when mum told me that I’d finally get to see Green Day. And not on an old, over-played VHS tape, oh no. They would be right there in front of me – we would be breathing the same air.

If I got close enough to the stage, maybe I could catch their eye? Maybe, just maybe Billy-Joe’s sweat would flick onto my face as he danced around the stage. It was a long awaited dream come true.

But before you read on I need to be up front with you. 14 year-old me wasn’t exactly a One Direction fan-girl type, or Directioner as they’re affectionately known. In fact, I’m pretty sure 14 year-old me would’ve hated Directioners, but that’s beside the point.

You see, I was more of a Grunger, or at least I wanted to be.

I grew up on the Upper North Shore of Sydney in a nice house with my big brother James and my loving, hard-working parents. James and I both went to good schools, played sport, enjoyed art, and loved writing music (or noise as dad used to call it).

Every time school holidays rolled around, I couldn’t wait to dye my hair some kind of crazy colour, buy a new pair of Dr Martins Boots, or get another ear piercing.

I was a creative spirit, and I was trying to break free. Free from my very comfortable, middle-class existence.

But with a good 17 years between me and my first live music concert experience, I can say without hesitation that Directioners and 14 year-old me probably have a lot in common.

Picture this. It’s summertime, 8 February 1996. Paul Keating was enjoying his last moments as Prime Minister, and Friends had just aired on Australian TV for the first time.

I legged it out of the school grounds with my two best friends straight after 5th period. We hurriedly crammed into a toilet cubicle at Pymble Train Station to change out of our private girl’s school uniforms and into our real identities – freedom!

There I was, rainbow knee-high stockings, skate shoes with matching rainbow laces, a tatty black skirt of mum’s that I’d cut short with a pair of scissors, and a commemorative Kurt Cobain t-shirt.

On the train trip to Central Station we scoffed down sweets, recited line after line of the band’s song lyrics, strategised about how to make it past the security guards to get back stage, and made bets on what the set list would be.

After what felt like a lifetime, we finally arrived. Five hours early for the concert – we were real fans.

Buzzing on sugar, we plonked ourselves down on the footpath with half a dozen other kids. They had “missioned it” from Newcastle that morning – respect.

We marvelled at the gate of the Hordern Pavillion, the infamous rock temple of awesome that my big brother had always gloated about seeing bands play at. Finally it was my turn, and I wasn’t just there to see any band. They were the coolest, most amazing punk rock trio in the world.

I wonder if this is how Directioners will feel when they arrive at the Homebush Bay Stadium on Saturday night?

Sure their hair will be meticulously GHD-styled rather than intentionally mashed into a bird’s nest, sure their makeup will be all glitter and glam, rather than the Courtney Love-inspired racoon eyes look, and of course their short shorts and skinny jeans are a far cry from the stone washed, torn up thrift shop threads we used to wear.

But ultimately, we all just want “one thing”, and that’s to see our heroes up there on stage, blowing our minds.

As night fell over the Hordern, thousands of kids joined the back of the queue outside. It was time.

The loud speaker crackled, and then a voice announced, “before the gates open we would like to remind you that there’s no running allowed inside the venue. I repeat, do not run when we open the gates.”

Well, I think it’s the first and last time I’ll ever witness 7000 teenagers power-walking into a venue. But we managed to get the perfect spot, right at the front and centre of the mosh pit.

For the next three hours we lived the dream. Sweaty, screaming sardines packed into that room so tight that we could hardly breathe.

The band busted out hit after hit, their lyrics and melodies penetrating our souls. They understood our deepest fears, our aspirations, our lives, it was magical.

While in that moment I certainly believed I was the biggest Green Day fan on the face of the planet, I hadn’t realised the extent of my own excitement until I was approached by a towering, shaggy-haired concert goer.

He grabbed my shoulder, leaned down, looked me straight in the eyes and yelled above the music “dude, can I get some of whatever you’re on?”

I paused, puzzled for a moment, and then responded with “nothing man, it’s just the band”! I raised the horns and moshed on.

Finally the end of the set rolled around, and the crowd demanded encore after encore. And then, the drummer, Tre Cool, walked out from behind his kit to the front of the stage, a pair of Zildjian drum sticks clasped in one hand.

He gestured to the crowd with a “who wants these” signal, and of course everyone went nuts. He paced to the right of the stage and pegged the first drum stick into the crowd. Then he strode back to the left of the stage and stopped, right in front of me.

The mosh pit surged, people were pushing and shoving each other out of the way to try and line up with him. I kept my focus.

And then, it happened. His arm propelled the second drum stick towards us. In slow motion I saw it, rotating as it flew gracefully through the air. Someone next to me jumped, but they were too eager, a premature attempt. I waited, I had it in my sights.

Then, like a seasoned AFL player, I grabbed hold of the guy in front of me and leapt into the air, pushing off his shoulders to get an extra bit of height.

I reached out my hand and snapped the drum stick out of the air!

I bolted for the exit, running from the group of crazed fans that wanted to steal it from me. As I passed through the entrance to the Hordern I spotted the Wendy’s ice-cream van, and slid underneath it to seek refuge while I waited for the mob to pass.

It wasn’t until years later that I realised the significance of that moment. What I had that night was something that people search for; that raw, untamed excitement and the ability to express it without a care in the world. Or more importantly, without a drug in the world.

I hope that this month One Direction fans feel what I felt that night. I hope they can’t contain themselves. I hope they are completely overwhelmed by the experience. I hope they remember every glorious detail. I hope they don’t grow up too quickly. And most of all, I hope they always remember that they don’t need a drink in their hand to have the best night of their lives.

This post was originally published on Drink Tank.

Syrian-Women

This morning we attended the last Women’s Rights Caucus for the Human Rights Council. The Caucus is co-organised by the World YWCA, World Women’s Summit Foundation (WWSF) and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF).

The meeting provided an opportunity for members to hear from women who are working in NGOs in Syria and Jordan on what is ‘really’ happening to women and girls in refugee settings in these countries.

This is an important issue for the World YWCA as it has member associations in Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and Egypt – all of which are affected by and connected to the Syrian conflict.

Nyaradzayi welcomed us to the meeting, she’s always so powerful when she speaks and brings everyone right back to the heart of why we’re here in Geneva.

She reminded us that we need to make sure there’s a connection between what’s being talked about at the HRC and the realities of what women refugees are experiencing.

We know that the HRC will look at adopting the resolution on violence against women, and she challenged us to consider how today’s discussion can inform our broader engagement and advocacy at the HRC.

She also noted that we need an intergenerational focus in our dialogue, from girls and young women as refugees, to women and mothers, and older women.

The first guest speaker was Ms Fardous Albahra, from the Syrian Women’s League (SWL), who reminded us that what’s happening in Syria is not an armed conflict, it’s a revolution to reach democracy and justice.

The regimes have been focusing on different strategies to crack down on the revolution. Many Syrian women from a range of social classes have been raped and imprisoned, but there has been a particular focus on disadvantaged women. The aim of such tactics are to break the human spirit, disempower communities, and ultimately deter people from continuing their participation on the revolution.

She shared with us an insight into politics in Syria. Unsurprisingly, very few women are involved in Syrian politics. Fewer still are part of the women’s movement.

The majority of the women involved in Syrian politics don’t support the SWL’s call for women to have the right to pass their nationality on to their children. It was in fact the democratic secular men in parliament who supported it.

The SWL hopes that the revolution will end soon, and that a secular and democratic government will encourage women’s participation in decision-making, politics and public life.

They called for the international community to oppose human rights violations, and to support their long-term strategy and constitution for women to become a part of political life in Syria.

Next we heard from Ms Sabah Al Hallak, also a representative from the SWL who provided a brief overview of how the conflict in Syria began, and reminded us that women are disproportionately affected during times of conflict.

She said that women in Syria are calling for peace, and the SWL is doing whatever it can to seek women’s involvement in the political process, and demand women’s rights in the next government’s agenda.

She noted that the media has played a big role in enforcing negative framing of women, and in exaggerating claims about violations towards women.

Unfortunately I didn’t have time to chat to her about this (she was whisked off to her next speaking engagement), but I presume that the government and media are closely aligned and work together to perpetuate a sense of fear among Syrian people.

Ms Dana Abu Sham, from the Arab Women Organisation of Jordan (AWOJ) reminded us that domestic violence is seen as a part of some Syrian cultures, particularly rural areas, and that this was occurring prior to the revolution.

She spoke of the AWOJ’s work outside of refugee camps, and the current challenges around data collection, and so was reluctant to make concrete statements about which issues were most impacting on women.

She shared a very different perspective on the way that men, particularly Arab men view women from Syria, and women from Jordan.

“Syrian women have a reputation of being fair-skinned, very beautiful, knowing how to please men (both physically and emotionally), and being sweet-talkers.

Jordanian women on the other hand are not as fair-skinned, they are more aggressive and they will stand up to a man”, she said.

It’s not uncommon for wealthy Arab men to fly into Syria or Jordan for one week, pay a small dowry to the girl’s impoverished family, marry her, and after a week of pleasure leave her forever – with nothing.

When child brides get married and do not register their marriages in host communities, then it is considered illegal in that country. Moreover if she were to have a baby, then automatically that child is considered illegitimate. The ramifications on her rights and the rights of the child are overwhelming.

So what can women’s organisations in Geneva do? We were urged to continue our work on women’s rights especially in refugee settings, protecting women from all forms of violence, particularly in conflict situations, and to advocate for women to be involved in peace negotiations.

View-from-Palais-to-Lake-Geneva

Looking towards Lake Geneva from the Serpentine Bar, Palais Des Nations

Today we attended an event on on the human rights of children during conflict, sponsored by The Worldwide Movement for Children’s Rights.

His Excellency Jean-Marc Hoscheit, Permanent Representative of Luxembourg opened by saying that without the very real possiblity of punishment, there is no way of preventing children’s rights from being violated during conflict situations.

He said that in terms of doing justice for children who’s rights have been violated during conflict, punishing the perpetrator is but a fragment of the picture.

More importantly it’s about acknowledging that their childhood has been completely destroyed, and that they require ongoing support to be able to reintegrate back into the community. They need physical rehabilitation, psychological support, and education.

More than 3 million children in Syria suffer from the consequences of the ongoing conflict. Many  have died trying to find hospitals or shelter.

A whole generation of Syrian children have been traumatised, raped, mutilated, and murdered. There are frequent reports of them being used as human shields, as well as trained as combatants and messengers during armed conflict.

Mr Hoscheit reiterated Luxembourg’s commitment to ending the bloodshed in Syria, and called on the international community to respect international agreements and honour their duties.

Mr Victor Ullom, International Commission of Inquiry on Syria shared with us some horrendous statistics from his most recent report on kidnapping, torture, children being killed due to being suspected combatants or spies, and children being forced to watch their parents being killed. In 2013 alone, over 40 child combatants have been killed according to his reports.

However, it’s highly likely that these numbers are underrepresented due to the difficulties of accessing data and reporting of such incidences. The Syrian Government doesn’t let the Committee conduct any investigations inside the country which definitely restricts their efforts. They do the best they can by talking to NGOs, people exiting the country, and they use Skype to interview people inside the country.

Next on the panel was powerful and passionate Justice Renate Winter from the CRC Committee, who began with another heart-breaking statistic: there are more than 380 thousand child soldiers around the world.

Child&ForcedMarriage

Justice Winter recounted how she has seen many child soldiers in her life as a judge, and not one of them isn’t traumatised.

She talked about many children between the ages of 4 and 10 years of age who know nothing but war and violence. Sadly, she said that she sees that the average age of child soldiers aren’t increasing, they’re decreasing.

When chatting with a war lord in Sierra Leone, he told her that the problem is that there’s no cheaper weapon than a child – they don’t eat much, they are “stupid” and will do things that an adult soldier would never do, they are readily available, and they are easy to intimidate.

He told her that when she came to him with an equal alternative that he would stop.

And then another harrowing story. A war lord had sent 200 children to cross a field that he knew was littered with land mines. Once the children had crossed (there were few left at the end), the war lord then sent his precious adult soldiers safely across the field.

She said one of the major problems with the international justice system is that there isn’t a single government in the world that would pay for the years of rehabilitation needed to provide the victims and witnesses of these crimes with the kind of care that they need in order to heal and reintegrate into the community.

There was some discussion with panelists and delegates about prevention – how can you stop this from happening? While there are some efforts to educate and work with some military groups regarding the use of child soldiers and the impact of conflict on children, the outlook is pretty bleak.

According to Justice Winter, there is no way of stopping it, and that the best we can do is better deal with adult perpetrators and children (be they victims, witnesses or perpetrators) in international and national courts. Her belief is that no child should be convicted of war crimes, and that adults should feel the full force of the law.

I left this session with a heavy heart.

I’m glad it’s Friday so I have time to digest all of this, and reflect on another intense week of learning.

Kgothatso

In action: Kgothatso Ekisa Mokoena, World YWCA long-term intern

Today the Sexual Rights Initiative and the World YWCA co-hosted a side event on sexual and reproductive health rights and the post 2015 agenda.

Panellists included:

  • Dianela Pi, Ministro Conserjero, Mission of Uruguay
  • Alanna Armitage, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
  • Sandeep Prasad, Sexual Rights Initiative and High Level Task Force for ICPD
  • Kgothatso Ekisa Mokoena, World YWCA

Ms Armitage spoke about the recent global survey that was conducted in 176 member states, providing data on what states are doing to combat gender equality and to support women’s empowerment. Some of the key findings from the report included that:

  • 85% of all countries reported commitments to increase women’s participation in the formal and informal economy
  • 70% are committed to improving the welfare of the girl child
  • 8 of 10 countries are committed to increase women’s accessibility to information and counselling on sexual and reproductive health
  • 50.4% are committed to providing access to safe abortion services
  • 158 countries have implemented laws to increase the legal age of marriage to 18 years

However, 3 of 4 countries with the highest rates of child marriage don’t show commitment to ending it as a practice.

Ms Mokoena from the World YWCA did a great job of providing a grass-roots perspective on sexual and reproductive health, highlighting the gap between service provision and education as a major issue.

She spoke about the importance of implementing both service provision and education at a community level, to ensure that women, young women and girls are well informed of the options available to them.

For me, the biggest take-home messages from this session were:

  • sexual and health rights are human rights. We must defend the gains we’ve already achieved, and continue to push forward where there is resistance
  • the 2015 millenium development agenda isn’t being adequately monitored and reviewed, and this needs to be addressed
  • education is crucial – we need to ensure that women, young women and girls can make informed decisions about their sexuality and sexual and reproductive health rights
  • cultural practices, tradition and religion are never reasons to prevent women from accessing reproductive and sexual health care, including safe abortion
  • we’ll never transform gender relations unless men and boys are part of the solution
  • There’s a lot of work to do!

After the session we attended the premiere screening of Girl Rising, hosted by Plan International.

Girl-Rising-Screening

The film spotlights the personal journeys of nine unforgettable girls born in unforgiving circumstances and their empowerment. The film aims to raise awareness that education and empowering girls can break the cycle of poverty in just one generation. You can read more about their work here.

UN HRC - main room

On Wednesday we were back in the main room (the one with the funky ceiling) for the Annual Day of Discussion on Women’s Rights – great to see a whole day dedicated to this subject at the Human Rights Council (HRC).

It was an important day for the World YWCA and the Y movement, because we had prepared a statement that focused on child, early and forced marriages that Jenna read out to the assembly in the afternoon.

There’s no guarantee for NGOs as to whether they’ll actually have an opportunity to speak, because it all depends on what states have to say (they are given priority) and how much time remains after they have all spoken.

Here’s a video we made in the lunch break that explains what the statement is all about:

The first panel discussion of the morning focused on reflecting on efforts to eliminate violence against women, from the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action to the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).

The opening statement  was made by Ms Navanethem Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, with the discussion moderated by Ms Rashida Manjoo, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences.

Panellists included:

  • Ms Patricia Schulz, member of the CEDAW Committee
  • Ms Florence Butegwa, Representative to Ethiopia (OIC), and Representative to the African Union and UNECA, UN Women
  • Dr Fatma Khafagy, Ombudsperson of Gender Equality, Egypt
  • Ms. Simone Cusack, Senior Policy and Research Officer, Australian Human Rights Commission; Author and Expert on Gender Stereotyping; and
  • Juan Carlos Areán, Member of the Secretary-General’s Network of Men Leaders senior program director at the Family Violence Prevention Fund (FVPF)

Ms Pillay provided an overview of the recent history of women’s human rights, highlighting CEDAW and the Vienna Declaration as milestones in reframing the debate on women’s human rights.

Ms Schulz spoke on behalf of the CEDAW committee and how it worked to frame violence against women as a form of discrimination. She also noted the importance of the contribution that NGOs make on informing this issue, and that the Committee has institutionalised the participation of NGOs and civil society in its work.

She said the influence of the Committee is growing despite the fact that some states don’t implement its recommendations. However, she also acknowledged that
violence against women continues all over the world and that dealing with it is not just the job of the Committee alone.

While the Committee has no legal power to enforce its recommendations and many states are slow and irregular in their reporting, the CEDAW convention provides a holistic legal framework to be able to effectively tackle this issue in an international setting like the HRC.

Ms Butegwa then shared some positive trends regarding violence against women, noting that 34 African countries now have legislation to eliminate violence against women. She thanked the participation of the CEDAW committee and supportive states in making this a reality.

We then heard from states on the issue, what their country had done to address the issue, and their suggestions for next steps to eliminate gender discrimination and violence against women. States who were particularly strong in their positions included: Brazil, Estonia, Canada, Lithuania, Chile, South Africa, Norway, USA, and Greece, as well as the European Union.

I noticed a common theme emerging, that was first noted by Ms Pillay in her opening address, and that is that implementation of resolutions is still a big problem.

Sierra Leone suggested that we need detailed action plans that are country-specific, include targeted strategies for different population groups, and media strategies and effective message dissemination for public education and awareness-raising campaigns.

The second session of the day focused on strengthening the work of the HRC and other inter-governmental bodies and processes in the area of violence against women.

Ms Flavia Pansieri, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights provided the opening statement, and the discussion was moderated by Ms Rashida Manjoo, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences.

Panellists included:

  • Ms Zainab Bangura, SRSG on Sexual Violence in Conflict
  • Mr Sandeep Chawla, Deputy Executive Director, UNODC
  • Ms Patience Stephens, Director of the Intergovernmental Support Division, UN Women
  • Prof Marilou McPhedran, Institute for International Women’s Rights at The University of Winnipeg Global College, Canada

Ms Pansieri made some practical recommendations for steps that could be taken to address violence against women in the work of the HRC at state level:

  • integrating violence against women in country-specific sessions and resolutions
  • making specific reference to violence against women in mandates of enquiry
  • introducing mandates to make special mention of violence against women during country missions
  • paying attention to other forms of discrimination that impact on violence against women, as it leads to a greater risk to exposure to gender-based violence
  • avoiding duplication of work and recommendations
  • developing strategies to implement the recommendations of the resolution on violence against women

Ms Bangura’s address brought us all back down to earth by sharing horrific stories from women and girls in her country, particularly relating to sexual violence and rape of babies, girls, and young women. The statistics are truly sickening.

She talked about how when someone in her country is raped, it’s commonplace for the family of the victim to disown them, or worse, kill them because of the apparent shame that it brings to the family.

She strongly pointed out that the shame and the stigma should be that of the perpetrators, not of the victim. And that it’s up to everyone to condemn the scourge of violence against women, something she calls history’s greatest silence.

She said that includes teachers, journalists, political and religious leaders, those involved in the judicial system, health professionals, and social commentators, can all make a difference in changing attitudes towards these crimes. Not to mention folk at the international level including treaty bodies, specil rapporteurs, and experts that are engaged in HRC processes.

States then took to the floor to reiterate the importance of the issue, it’s complexities within their cultural context, and the impact it has on their states socially, politically, and economically. They also spoke about the work that their governments are doing at a national level in prevention, treatment, persecution of perpetrators, and ongoing support to victims of violence.

I’ve been here long enough now to read the subtext of these statements, to understand the intentions and implications of certain language that states use, and the alliances that are formed to either block or promote the passage of UN resolutions and other actions.

For example, states such as Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt have all taken a position to reject suggestions to include language from agreed conclusions from CSW57 in the draft resolution on the elimination of violence against women that is being lead by Canada. The language they most object to is about women’s right to have an abortion, and also protecting the human rights of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, and intersex people.

It’s clear that behind-the-scenes collaboration takes place so they can support eachother’s positions in consultations and events where official documents are being drafted and discussed.

On the flipside there’s Norway and the group of Nordic countries, who make a point of using specific language (rather than implicit) in their statements and contributions to ensure that their governments can’t sit on their hands when it comes to championing women’s human rights.

Then there’s a group who sit on the fence, or make statements that appear to support the positions of states like Canada and Norway, but BEWARE!  You have to “read the fine print” in order to not be mislead.

On the surface they seem supportive, but they often conclude their seemingly supportive statements with disclaimers that nullify the essential content of documents like the resolution on violence against women.

A classic example would be a line like “we support the elimination of all forms of violence against women, including sexual violence, and acknowledge women’s right to access health services, in the cultural and religious context of the state.” Ie, if a religious or political leader says that a woman should be imprisoned for seeking an abortion because she was raped and fell pregnant, then so be it.

So why do we spend days and sometimes weeks negotiating over one or two words? Wouldn’t it just be easier to make generalised statements so that everyone agrees and gets on with the job?

When language is diluted it allows states to abrogate their responsibilities to take meaningful action on these issues, and to ignore critical areas that need urgent attention in relation to women’s human rights.

That’s why it was important for the World YWCA to make the oral statement. It sends a strong message to the HRC and states that we know what work needs to be done, and we’ll keep pushing for meaningful action until we see all women and girls enjoying their human rights.

Jenna-in-action

Jenna in action, making the oral statement on behalf of the World YWCA.

No matter what country you live in, you’ve probably seen a mass media government campaign or two that focusses on ‘tackling youth binge drinking’. In Australia a recent and significant effort in this area was the Federal Government’s Don’t Turn a Night Out Into a Nightmare campaign. I took a closer look at this $20 million effort to change young people’s attitudes and behaviours towards alcohol to see how it stood up against evidence-based strategies and successful social marketing initiatives from around the world.

Summary

 On 10 March 2008, the Australian Government announced a $53.5 million “National Binge Drinking Strategy” (the Strategy) that aimed to address risky alcohol consumption among young Australians. The Strategy comprised three components: a $14.4 million investment in community initiatives that focused on exploring the cultural and social aspects of binge drinking, including $2 million towards supporting the Club Champions program –  developing elite sports ambassadors to promote responsible drinking messages; $5.2 million towards supporting the Good Sports program – supporting local sporting clubs to promote responsible drinking messages; and $7.2 million towards a community based grants round – establishing partnerships between non-government organisations (NGOs), local governments, sporting groups, police, and other groups to develop local solutions to youth binge-drinking. The second component of the Strategy was a $19.1 million investment in early intervention programs that encourage young people to take on personal responsibility for their drinking behaviours, and the third component was a two-year, $20 million social marketing initiative entitled Don’t Turn a Night Out Into a Nightmare, that sought to highlight the ‘costs and consequences’ of binge drinking for young people.

The focus of this report is the principle key element of the Strategy, the Don’t Turn a Night Out Into a Nightmare campaign (the Campaign), which ran from 21 November 2008 to 30 June 2010.

Target audiences

The Campaign targeted two key groups:

  1. Primary target audience: teenagers aged 15-17, and young people between the ages of 18-25.
  2. Secondary target audience: parents of 13-17 year olds.

Objectives

The main objective of the Campaign was to “contribute, along with the range of existing education, policy and regulatory initiatives, to a reduction in harm associated with drinking to intoxication amongst young Australians.” (Australian Government, Department of Health and Ageing [DoHA], 2008). In terms of alcohol-related harms, the Campaign focused on short-term or immediate harms such as injury or accidents, rather than the long-term impacts of heavy drinking such as chronic disease. Specifically, the Campaign aimed to:

  1. Raise awareness of the harms and costs associated with drinking to intoxication among young people.
  2. Increase perceptions of the possibility of personally experiencing a range of short-term negative outcomes from intoxication, as well as increasing personal perceptions of the seriousness of these outcomes.
  3. Deliver personally relevant messages to encourage, motivate and support the primary target groups to reconsider the acceptability of the harms and costs associated with drinking to intoxication, assess their own drinking behaviour, and make changes to their own behaviours where necessary.
  4. Deliver personally relevant messages to encourage, motivate and support parents of young people to examine their own attitudes and behaviour towards alcohol, talk to their children about alcohol and the consequences of drinking to intoxication, and to become role models for responsible alcohol consumption.

Delivery

The Campaign adopted a traditional social marketing approach, whereby ‘‘brand’’ merchandising techniques are used to sell or market social behaviour change in a similar fashion as product marketing. In brand marketing schemes, information about a product is transmitted with the goal of changing behaviour and increasing product consumption. Social marketing represents a variant of brand or commodity marketing, with the goal of persuasively changing behaviour through value or attitudinal change. Standard campaign applications of these ideas have typically relied on public service announcements (PSAs) and ancillary communication strategies, for example, television, radio, print media, and billboards to inform the public with a goal of changing beliefs, attitudes, and eventually behaviours (Scheier, Lawrence & Grenard, 2010).

The key message “Don’t turn a night out into a nightmare”, was delivered via a range of mass media channels, including, television commercials, cinema commercials, radio commercials, online advertising including a game entitled The Drinking Nightmare, out-of-home advertising, print media such as posters, brochures and postcards, and educational resources for parents and teachers including online fact sheets, and an interactive CD-ROM.

The television, print and out-of-home advertising follow a consistent approach in delivering the key message. Each piece of media depict two scenes, the first of a group of young people happily consuming alcohol, the second of a scene illustrating one of the negative short-term consequences of binge drinking. The situations, actors and consequences of each scene were chosen to ensure the maximum relevance for both genders and for younger and older drinkers within the 15-25 year age range. After conducting pre-campaign market research with the target groups, four pairs of scenes were used:

  1. ‘Party bushes’, in which a couple are photographed having sex at a party in the bushes, coupled with the statistic “one in two Australians aged 15–17 who get drunk will do something they regret” (designed for maximum relevance for females and 15–17 year-olds);
  2. ‘Pedestrian accident’, in which a male pedestrian is hit by a car, coupled with the statistic “four Australians under 25 die due to alcohol related injuries in an average week” (designed for maximum relevance for males and 15–17 year-olds);
  3. ‘Coffee table’, in which a female is injured by falling through a glass table, coupled with the statistic “on average, 1 in 4 hospitalisations of people aged 15–24 happen because of alcohol” (designed for maximum relevance for females and 18–25 year-olds); and
  4. ‘Pub fight’, in which two males exchange blows, coupled with the statistic “70 Australians under 25 will be hospitalised due to alcohol-caused assault in an average week” (designed for maximum relevance for males and 18–25 year-olds).

Two 60-second advertisements were used on television and in the cinema. The first, which featured ‘Party bushes’ and ‘Pedestrian accident’, was designed to appeal to the younger members of the target audience. The second featured ‘Coffee table’ and ‘Pub fight’ for maximum relevance to older members of the primary target audience. The online advertising featured a moving image of a beer glass being raised as if to the viewer’s mouth and one of the statistics mentioned above (Ipsos-Eureka Social Research Institute, 2009).

Risk issue definition

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), alcohol is a causal factor in more than 60 major types of disease and injury. These include liver cirrhosis, diabetes, road traffic accidents, several types of cancer, violence, and Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (World Health Organization, 2011). The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol (the Guidelines) state that alcohol-related risk comprises both the risk of alcohol-related harm over a lifetime, and the risk of injury on a single occasion of drinking (National Health and Medical Research Council [NHMRC], 2009).

Alcohol misuse results in substantial harms to Australians. Each week some 60 people die and a further 1500 are hospitalized because of their own alcohol consumption (Pascal, Chikritzhs & Jones, 2009). Not only does alcohol misuse impact on the drinker, it also imposes costs to the community, including healthcare, criminal justice, and lost productivity. In 2010, one in five Australians aged 14 years or over drank at levels that placed them at lifetime risk of alcohol-related disease or injury. This equates to 3.7 million Australians drinking at long-term risky levels, compared to 3.5 million Australians in 2007. In 2010, almost two in five Australians aged 14 years or over drank at levels that placed them at risk from short-term harm at least once in the previous 12 months. Between 2007 and 2010, the number of people drinking at risky levels monthly increased from 4.9 million to 5.2 million (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare [AIHW], 2011). From the period 1995-2005, 32,696 Australians aged 15 years and over died, and over 80,000 were hospitalized each year due to risky or high risk alcohol consumption (Pascal, Chikritzhs, & Jones, 2009).

In terms of Australia’s overall alcohol consumption, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) generates its estimates about the amount of alcohol consumed by Australians based on the amount of alcohol available for consumption in Australia in a single year. In 2009-2010, the estimate of alcohol consumption was 10.3 litres per person, which is equivalent to 2.3 standard drinks per day, per person aged 15 years and over. According to the ABS, this figure has remained relatively stable since the mid 1990’s (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011).

This report focuses on the Campaign’s attempt to reduce the occurrence of risky single occasions of drinking, or binge drinking, among young Australians.

Précis of previous research

There is surprisingly little research literature about the way that Australian news media treat the issue of binge drinking, or Australia’s ‘drinking culture’, despite the fact that it is a frequently reported issue. A 7-year snapshot of [1] mainstream Australian news media coverage referencing the term ‘binge drinking’ indicates that reporting of the issue has remained stable over this period, with around 1000 news items per year. However, from 2008-2009 coverage more than quadrupled, which is likely to be attributable to the launch of the Campaign (see Table 1 below):

Table 1

News articles referencing ‘binge drinking’ from 1 January 2005 – 1 January 2012

Year

Number of news items

2005

726

2006

622

2007

1186

2008

4866

2009

2889

2010

1314

2011

1304

While international analyses have examined the relationship between media framing of alcohol issues and youth binge drinking culture, little attention has been given to the way in which young people receive, interpret and react to dominant news frames. Studies in the United States have explored the role of parents, public health advocates, and news frames influence young people’s drinking behaviours (Askelson & Campo, 2009). However, this research largely ignores the social, political and cultural actors that shape the way that young people perceive alcohol. While research indicates that parental involvement is an important protective factor (Askelson & Campo, 2009), in isolation, the likelihood of media framing having a significant impact on parent’s attitudes towards managing their child’s alcohol use is arguably small. Further, the likelihood of college students changing their behaviours and attitudes towards drinking as a result of increased parental intervention is at best minimal, particularly for young people that live on campus, away from the family home.

A recent Australian study about the communications activities of alcohol industry-funded body, DrinkWise, demonstrates how journalistic practices routinely circulate a range of expert opinions and ideas without providing context, background or critique of each position. By presenting industry and health researchers’ voices on an even playing-field, expert opinion is devalued, and at times, health researchers’ criticisms of the alcohol industry appear to strengthen rather than undermine it’s communications efforts. This is demonstrated through the alcohol industry’s involvement in public policy, academic research, and news media, all of which contribute to legitimising its position within public discussions about alcohol consumption. While some publicity does not play immediately in the industry’s favour, the fact that it is engaged in discussions and debates provides an opportunity to maintain and reinforce political and economic structures that facilitate branding and consumption, while at the same time actively engage in brand-building activities in social and cultural environments (Carah & van Horen, 2011). A 2011 study of Australian news media’s treatment of the contested ‘alcopops tax’ on ready-to-drink beverages (RTDs) in 2008 supports the notion that the opinions of health advocates, experts and industry representatives are presented by media without providing any context or background for the audience (Fogarty & Chapman, 2011).

It is clear that further work needs to be done to establish an adequate understanding of the structural and societal factors that shape the way young Australians perceive alcohol, and the extent to which news media influences their attitudes and behaviours. Further, the use of social media as an effective channel for engaging at-risk young people to achieve attitudinal and behavioural change is yet to be explored.

Campaign analysis: Don’t Turn a Night Out Into a Nightmare

The Campaign was highly ambitious in the sense that it relied on a mass media approach to achieve its proposed core objectives of increasing knowledge, influencing attitudes, and changing behaviours among the target population groups. International evidence on successful public health education campaigns on low-risk drinking levels show that mass media approaches can be effective in reaching a broad target audience. For example, Canada’s highly successful Born Free campaign about abstaining from alcohol during pregnancy involved disseminating information at the point of sale, as well as the promotion of key messages through television, radio, and print media (NHMRC, 2009). While mass media campaigns can reach a diverse cross-section of the population, they are less successful in engaging specific population groups when messages are generic, both in terms of framing and the medium by which they are delivered (van Gemert & Dietze, 2011).

How people behave is determined by many factors and is deeply embedded in social situations, institutional contexts and cultural norms. A non-targeted approach to communication may be particularly ineffective for some of the diverse cultural and demographic groups within Australia. Messages targeting Indigenous groups, for example, may be most effective if they are tailored specifically to them (recognising that Indigenous culture is also heterogenous). Other groups that may require specialised tailoring include recent migrants, the elderly and young people (Australian Public Service Commission, 2007). In order to influence the attitudes and behaviours of young people who engage in risky drinking it is clear that a more targeted approach is necessary.

Age is one of the crucial considerations in the design of social marketing campaigns that aim to affect attitudinal and behavioural change in a population group. While the Campaign targeted young people from age 15 through to 25, and the parents of these young people, research shows that messaging and education about sensitive issues and risk-taking should begin at a much earlier age. According to the World Health Organisation, “the needs and developmental abilities of young people vary with their age; thus programmes must take these factors into account. This is commonly referred to as “developmentally appropriate programing.” For example, concepts in school curricula should be sequenced smoothly from primary levels to secondary levels to reinforce previous learning experiences and make links for new learning; this process is sometimes referred to as a “spiral curriculum.” For sensitive issues such as HIV/AIDS, sexual and reproductive health, education should begin as interest begins to increase but before the target group has become involved in risk-taking behaviours. The building blocks for dealing with such sensitive issues should be in place at the very beginning of children’s education. Such building blocks include self-esteem, positive values of cooperation and teamwork, the protection and promotion of health, and pro-social behaviour. However, to help young people develop positive behaviour and avoid risks, these topics must be taught in a way that is increasingly specific to actual situations in their lives.” Further, the pre-teen and early teen years are arguably the critical period in which drug influences by peers are most active and also reflect the formative years of identity formation when youth are most vulnerable to certain risk behaviours (Hawkins, Catalano, & Miller, 1992).

It has become increasingly clear that governments cannot simply ‘deliver’ key policy outcomes to a disengaged and passive public. In the areas of welfare, health, crime, employment, education and the environment, achieving significant progress requires the active involvement and cooperation of citizens (Australian Public Service Commission, 2007). Social media can be defined as a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010). Social media is playing an increasingly important role in the way that organisations, governments and individuals communicate. For governments, digital communication tools provide opportunities to influence the attitudes and behaviours of individuals and communities, particularly young people. An important aspect of effective social media use is communication strategies that are based on a dialogical paradigm. Successful social media strategies typically encompass the following criteria:

  1. Connectedness: regularly engaging in two-way conversations with target audiences.
  2. Meaningful participation: target audiences are actively participating in opportunities made available to them through social media outreach.
  3. Uptake of information: information and key messages are being accessed and used by target audiences.

While the Campaign utilised social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube, the underlying communications strategy was focused on a broadcast or one-way paradigm. The Campaign’s social media profiles were merely used as communication stations for pushing messages and information to as broad an audience as possible, rather than tapping into the more powerful paradigm of dialogic communications. The profiles are clearly designed and governed by the Department of Health and Ageing, with little evidence of input from young people. Updates are restricted to the key Campaign messages such as “Going out this weekend? Don’t risk turning your night out into a nightmare. Know your limits and aim to stick to them. Avoid peer pressure and drinking more than you want to” and “Are you going out this Anzac day? To help keep track of how much you have had to drink, avoid top ups and finish your drink before you go for a refill.” Since the launch of the Campaign, parody Facebook pages have been created by young people, such as Don’t Turn a Night Out Into a Nightmare – Plank Responsibly, which has 67,556 ’likes’ as opposed to the Government’s official page with 198,769 ‘likes’. The parody page was created by an individual with no broader marketing budget, which demonstrates the effectiveness of authentic messaging and the potential for some social media initiatives to spread ‘virally’. The parody page is still regularly updated, whereas the Government page has remained static since July 9, 2010. The effective use of social media was a missed opportunity, and one that should be explored in future youth-oriented social marketing campaigns.

The Government’s official evaluation of the Campaign consisted of an analysis of 4,363 online interviews in November 2008, and 4,200 in April 2009 with young people and parents of young people. The sample was then broken down into gender, location, cultural background, and level of alcohol consumption. While the results indicate that campaign messages were well-received and retained by the primary target audiences, there is less evidence to show that the Campaign had an impact on drinking behaviours. Further, while quantitative data is useful in terms of tracking trends and patterns in attitudes and behaviours, a qualitative methodology such as semi-structured interviewing or focus groups would be more useful in terms of gaining a deeper understanding of the attitudes, perceptions and behaviours of the target groups.

Implications for risk communication

It is questionable as to whether mass media campaigns are the most appropriate vehicle for engaging at-risk youth population groups. Alternative approaches include non-paternalistic, highly-targeted peer-based interventions, and the innovative use of social media to deliver key messages, information, and importantly, foster dialogic communication with young people (Gemert et al., 2011). Smaller-scale social marketing, such as tailored communication for individuals or small groups, is growing in popularity and has substantial applications using the Internet and handheld devices. However, tailored health communications is a new field and has not yet been widely applied to prevention and health promotion, and there is limited evidence of its effectiveness in these applications (Kreuter, Farrell, Olevitch & Brennan, 2000). Further research in this area is needed in order to establish an understanding of the effectiveness of these alternative approaches.

Research about the media reporting of the implementation of the Australian Government’s ‘Alcopops Tax’ suggests that effective communication about changes to alcohol policy needs to: clearly demonstrate the case for change, understand the arguments of opposing actors, ensure that evidence is readily available to support claims, and use case study examples to further illustrate arguments and add a dimension of authenticity to the frame (Fogarty & Chapman, 2011). However, given the nature of the risk communication environment it would be naïve to propose that positions of power in framing risk issues can be won and permanently held by a particular actor, regardless of the level of support for or salience of a frame at a particular point in time. It is perhaps more important for health advocates to acknowledge the complexities of the risk communication environment, and where possible, seek assistance from strategic communication experts to provide support in navigating and negotiating this tricky terrain.

A common communications approach of health researchers, policy-makers, and other experts is to challenge the credibility of organisations such as DrinkWise, as a legitimate player in the alcohol policy debate. This has often proved ineffective, as by acknowledging DrinkWise and shining a light on their messages, they are then intrinsically accepted as a key part of discussions. By battling the alcohol industry lobby, the focus is then removed from the alcohol ‘environment’, that is, the entertainment, cultural, media and marketing spaces in which the industry promotes and facilitates alcohol consumption. Instead, health experts should channel their efforts towards shaping the way in which public debates are framed, that is, the current media template about alcohol consumption. This proposal poses a significant challenge to the Australian health sector, as there is already a well-established framing of experts promoting ‘nanny state’ or ‘wowserish’ alcohol policy reforms, particularly when the focus is on the regulatory environment. In order for a shift in the current media template to take place, professional strategic communicators must lead the way in shaping conversations with the media, key political stakeholders and the alcohol industry (Carah & van Horen, 2011).

The Guidelines summarise the current evidence-base on risk levels associated with alcohol consumption for adults, young people, and women who are pregnant or breast-feeding. The Guidelines have now been in place for three years, yet there has been no comprehensive education campaign to promote them (FARE, 2012). An evaluation of the limited promotional material regarding the Guidelines commissioned by DoHA astutely points out that “The guidelines will not engage the community nor influence attitudes towards the consumption of alcohol merely by virtue of their existence” (Horizon Research, 2011). While there have been a handful of short-term campaigns in the past two decades aimed at reducing the levels of harm associated with alcohol use among the Australian population, and young people in particular, none have proved successful in significantly changing drinking behaviours. While evaluations indicate that awareness of past campaign messages has been high, and the retention of these messages has been successfully obtained by target population groups, drinking behaviours have largely remained unchanged. With this in mind, it raises a serious question as to why the Australian Government chose to invest a further $20 million in the Campaign.

This review demonstrates that in order to significantly change young people’s attitudes and behaviours towards alcohol, a multipronged approach is needed. This includes ongoing public education and social marketing campaigns, as well as policy reform that addresses the environment in which alcohol is marketed, sold, and consumed. Future social marketing campaigns should take a long-term view, be well-resourced, adopt a dialogic communications paradigm, include both targeted and specific messages for different target audiences, and ideally take place within the context of population-wide alcohol policy reform.

References

Andrea, S. Fogarty and Simon Chapman (2011). Framing and the marginalisation of evidence in media reportage of policy debate about alcopops, Australia 2008-2009: implications for advocacy. Drug and Alcohol Review (30): 569-576

Askelson, N. M., S. Campo, et al. (2009). The Missing Role of Parents: A Content Analysis of Newspaper Coverage of Parenting Practices and Communication Strategies for Addressing Binge Drinking. Communication Research Reports 26(1): 50-61.

Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2011). Apparent Consumption of Alcohol, Australia, 2009-10.Canberra: ABS

Australian Government, Department of Health and Ageing. (2008). Retrieved from http://www.drinkingnightmare.gov.au/internet/drinkingnightmare/publishing.nsf/Content/about-the-campaign

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2011). 2010 National Drug Strategy Household Survey. Retrieved from http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=32212254712

Australian Public Service Commission. (2007). Changing behavior: A Public Policy Perspective. Retrieved from http://www.apsc.gov.au/publications07/changingbehaviour.pdf

Carah, N. and van Horen. (2011). Drinkwise, enjoy responsibly: News frames, branding and alcohol. Media International Australia (141): 5-16

C. van Germert, P. Dietze, et al. (2011). The Australian national binge drinking campaign: campaign recognition among young people at a music festival who report risky drinking. BMC Public Health 11(1), 482-489

Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education. (2012). 2012-2013 Pre-Budget Submission. Retrieved from http://www.fare.org.au/policy-advocacy/submissions/

Hawkins, J. D., Catalano, R. F., & Miller, T. Y. (1992). Risk and protective factors for alcohol and other drug problems in adolescence and early adulthood: Implications for substance abuse prevention. Psychological Bulletin, 112, 64–105.

Ipsos-Eureka Social Research Institute. (2009). National Binge Drinking Campaign – Evaluation Survey. Retrieved from the National Binge Drinking Campaign website http://www.drinkingnightmare.gov.au/internet/drinkingnightmare/publishing.nsf/Content/research-eval

Kaplan, Andreas M., Haenlein, Michael. (2010). Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media. Business Horizons 53(1): 59–68.

Kreuter M., Farrell D., Olevitch L., Brennan L. Tailored Health Messages: Customizing Communication with Computer Technology. (2000). Mahwah, N.J: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

National Health and Medical Research Council. (2009). Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol. Canberra, Commonwealth of Australia.

Pascal, R., Chikritzhs, T. & Jones, P. (2009). Trends in estimated alcohol attributable deaths and hospitalisations in Australia, 1996-2005. National Alcohol Indicators, Bulletin No.12. Perth: National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University of Technology.

Scheier, L. M. and J. L. Grenard (2010). Influence of a Nationwide Social Marketing Campaign on Adolescent Drug Use. Journal of Health Communication 15(3): 240-271.

World Health Organization. (2011). Global status report on alcohol and health.Geneva: World Health Organisation.

World Health Organisation (2001). Skills for Health, Skills-based health education including life skills: An important component of a Child-Friendly/Health-Promoting School. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/school_youth_health/en/


[1] Outlets include regional and metropolitan daily newspapers, 2GB radio, 3AW radio, and AAP news bulletins.

One of Her Canberra’s 15 Women to Watch in 2015

Her Canberra - 15 Women to Watch

Nominated for Mamamia’s Most Clickable Women of 2013

Let’s tweet!

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 22 other followers

Flickr Photos

More Photos
Simon Corbell MLA

Member for Molonglo | Attorney General | Minister for Police and Emergency Services | Minister for the Environment and Sustainable Development |

SistaNative URBAN WORLD ROOTS

Orator - Songwoman - Oceania/Pacific

Groove Culture.

STREET DANCING in SYDNEY.

The Canberran

A snobby (though tongue-in-cheek) look at the finer sides of the National Capital. Got a tip? Email editor@thecanberran.com

alterMedium

a space for opinions about what's happening in government ICT

National Gallery of Australia's Blog

The National Gallery of Australia has the largest collection of art in Australia, owned by all Australians.

Bits and pieces

thoughts, ideas, pictures, quotes, reviews, whimsy

Producer Notes

Go behind the camera lens...

Mrs Langford's Weblog

Help for English Students

1 Million Women

a movement of mothers, daughters, sisters, grandmothers getting on with climate action

Stonetree Harm Reduction

Imagine how much sweeter the world would sound with a little more harm reduction

tengerifitness.wordpress.com/

tengeri natural fitness

Bobby Graham Publishers

making accessible digital content

Melanie James

Academic researcher, consultant and senior lecturer in strategic communication and PR

codenix | blog

Random jottings about Science, Society, Technology and Critical Thinking.

BJJ For Women

News, Events, Ideas and All Things Fenom

In The Taratory

Reviewing anything and everything the ACT and surrounds have to offer

CBRfoodie

Searching for affordable and tasty food in our nation's capital