Personal story

Reducing youth alcohol consumption

Who: Mandurah Local Drug Action Team – the City of Mandurah and nine partners

Where: Approx. 70kms south of Perth

What: Reducing alcohol consumption in under-18s

“In order to address youth alcohol consumption, it’s important to ensure the environment young people live in doesn’t make it easy to access alcohol, or encourage its consumption,” says Nicole Toia, an ADF Relationship Manager based in Western Australia.

Liquor licensing

“With some bottle shops still selling alcohol to people under the age of 18, strategies to reduce this access is really important if we’re going to minimise alcohol consumption, and the resultant harms that it’s having on the developing brains and bodies of our community’s young people,” says Nicole.

Getting the right approach

Mandurah is a fast growing coastal city about 70km south of Perth. Starting in July 2017, the ADF worked with the City of Mandurah and nine other local partners to support the formation of a Local Drug Action Team (LDAT). Mandurah LDAT was accepted into the program several months later after a series of face-to-face meetings and several phone calls with ADF staff.

Since then, the LDAT has been researching community need and developing its Community Action Plan to reduce harms resulting from youth alcohol consumption. “The group has been very receptive and appreciative of the resources and advice we’ve been able to supply,” says Nicole. “It’s helped them plan and implement their own evidence-informed primary prevention strategies.”

In keeping with the best plans the ADF sees, the LDAT’s Community Action Plan ties in with three existing community strategic plans – including the Our Mandurah Community Youth Alcohol Strategy.

Building on this strength, the Mandurah LDAT is extending and strengthening key community partnerships that evolved out of the Mandurah Communities that Care initiative (CTC Mandurah).

The Mandurah LDAT’s project includes strengthening the ‘protective factors’ relating to young people by supporting school retention and increasing parents’ and young people’s knowledge of the harms associated with adolescent alcohol consumption; it’s also been reducing the ‘risk factors’ (including the supply of alcohol) to prevent alcohol harms.

Community needs assessment

Mandurah LDAT partnered with Deakin University to carry out a community needs assessment as one of the first stages of their project; this involved surveys of Year 8 and 10 students from local high schools.

The insights from this assessment enabled the mapping of many risk and protective factors that were present in the under-18 target population.

This data, together with extensive community consultation and a community assessment of needs and strengths, helped steer the development and delivery of the LDAT’s project.

Strong partnerships

The Mandurah LDAT is made up of many influential local stakeholders who have a history of developing and delivering strong, community-led project strategies.

“Partnerships like these are crucial to the reduction of AOD harm in places like Mandurah as they enable a strong whole-of-community approach to tackle local issues,” Nicole says.

One of these strong partnerships is with the Mandurah Liquor Accord.

Working together, the Mandurah LDAT partners are monitoring the sale of liquor to minors in the city by auditing local bottle shops. This involves a young trained confederate visiting all bottle shops in Mandurah to attempt to buy alcohol without showing ID. The purpose of the monitoring project is to reduce the sale of alcohol to minors.

Activities to gather data

In the first audit, two of the 18 bottle shops served the young man without asking for ID. Immediately following the audit, a media statement was released that highlighted the findings.

With the LDAT’s strategy of boosting the number of outlets checking IDs of customers that look younger than 25 years-old, letters were sent to the bottle shops to inform them of their staff performance in selling (or not selling) alcohol to the young person. Bottle shops that asked for ID were congratulated and encouraged; while bottle shops that sold alcohol without asking for ID were reminded of the requirements of the liquor licensing laws. Bottle shops were also offered a visit to provide more information about the licensing laws and/or educational signage for their bottle shop.

Six weeks later, another audit was carried out. This time all the bottle shops complied with licensing laws by not serving the young man.

Ongoing liquor supply audits have been identified as a successful strategy to reduce the availability of alcohol to people under the age of 18, and has been identified as a central and ongoing element within Mandurah LDAT’s future community action plans.

Evaluating what’s worked

“The strong emphasis on evaluation within the LDAT Program means that projects like this will have a lasting impact in reducing AOD harms around Australia,” says Nicole. “The experiences being learnt here in southern West Australia will be recorded, and together with similar work being done around the country, will ensure that Mandurah LDAT’s project will contribute to more effective community-led action in future,” says Nicole.

If you are interested in setting up your own liquor supply strategy then see the ADF’s new toolkits on liquor licensing.

Mandurah LDAT partners

Mandurah LDAT partners including community members and representatives from the Mandurah City Rotary Club, Palmerston Drug and Alcohol Service, John Tonkin College, the Department of Education, South Metropolitan Health Service, School Drug Education and Road Aware (SDERA), Billy Dower Youth Centre and the City of Mandurah.