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Sample Research Proposal on Alcohol Caused Violence in Redfern

Redfern Riot

            On 15 February, 17-year-old TJ Hickey died when he was thrown from his bike and impaled on a fence railing in Redfern, Sydney (Adrian, 2004). According to several witnesses, police were chasing TJ when he crashed his bike – something the police initially kept from the media (Moon and Munckton. 2004). The teenager was riding home was riding home from his girlfriend's house when he was supposed to have spotted a police car and assumed it was chasing him. There was an outstanding arrest warrant in his name but the police claimed that they were looking for a different individual who committed a violent bag snatch at Redfern railway station earlier that same day. The teenager lost control of his bike and impaled himself on a spiked fence. Police arrived at the scene quickly, but were unable to save him. Hickey died the following day in hospital. One controversy surrounding the actions of the New South Wales Police was the failure of an ambulance to attend the scene immediately following the incident. However, the Police did have on the scene a Special Response Unit similar to those found at Accidents involving Spinal Injuries and these units are purportedly equipped superior to an Ambulance, thus none was called to the scene (www.wikipedia.com). Friends and relatives gathered at The Block to grieve. Fliers were distributed blaming police for the death and discontented aboriginal youths gathered from across Sydney. The police closed the Eveleigh Street entrance to the station but the crowd had turned violent and began to throw bottles, bricks and Molotov cocktails that had been stockpiled earlier. The violence escalated into a full-scale riot around The Block, during which Redfern railway station was briefly alight, suffering superficial damage. The riot continued into the early morning, until police used Fire Brigade water hoses to disperse the crowd. One car, stolen in a western suburb, was torched, and 40 police officers were injured. Subsequent to the riot in the media police denied that they were present at Hickey's death. A subsequent coronial inquest found that they were following Hickey, but that this had not caused the accident. The Coroner stated that there were doubts about the truthfulness of the police report, but that further action could not be taken unless police statements changed. A memorial service was held on February 19, 2004, in Redfern, and in Walgett, New South Wales (Hickey's hometown), on February 22, 2004. The riots sparked fresh debate over welfare of Indigenous Australians and the response of the police to those living in the Redfern area (www.wikipedia.com).

 

Issues

 

            Rioters set fire to a train station and pelted police officers with gasoline bombs in an Aborigine neighborhood here during a nine-hour street battle that began after a teenager died, reportedly while being chased by officers. The rioting in the district, Redfern, left 40 officers injured and highlighted continuing tensions between Aborigines and the authorities (www.eniar.org)

 

 

It has been reported that the tension in Redfern began building following the death of Hickey on the morning of Sunday 15 February. Riding his bicycle in a reckless manner, he fell off and impaled himself on a fence. Rumors spread like wildfire through the ghetto that the youth died in a police pursuit, a claim the police deny. Posters sprang up calling the police child murderers. Groups of Aboriginals started preparing Molotov cocktails and filling wheelie bins with bricks, paving slabs and bottles (Marshall, 2004). According to Torato et al (2004), authorities have blamed alcohol, grief over a boy's death and the unrelenting heat for the Redfern aboriginal riot (www.smh.com.au). According to The Sydney Morning Herald (2004), rather than being tied directly to the events of February 14 – the day of TJ's fatal wounding – a more instructive explanation is likely to be found in the mire of disadvantage that colours Aboriginal history over more than two centuries. It's typified by poverty, ignorance and exclusion from the broader community, by well-intentioned but paternalistic policies that entrenched dependency and diminished self-esteem and self-reliance, by a ghetto existence which excites hatred and distrust on both sides, where Us v Them tensions and bitterness flourish. This is not some black armband view of history but objective acknowledgement of fact. It is not a question of blame so much as clearing the decks to make room for durable solutions. The drug and alcohol addiction that has debilitated so much of Aboriginal life at Redfern, that has made Redfern a crucible for criminality and despair, is not unique to Redfern. It is, tragically, a too-frequent characteristic of Aboriginal life and stems from disadvantage according to race. It is not possible to explain, let alone reverse, the collapse of civil order at Redfern (or elsewhere in Aboriginal Australia) without coming to terms with the ravages of heroin and drunkenness. And these scourges cannot be understood without appreciation of the despair in which they are rooted (www.eniar.org). The drug trade had destroyed the Aboriginal community in inner-Sydney Redfern, leaving its younger members without any chance of a real future. The main problem for the young was the huge heroin trade which operated in and around The Block, while alcohol had ruined the lives of older Aboriginal people (www.eniar.org). The Block has its share of drug, alcohol and dysfunction problems, just like any other community where poverty is rife (Ridgeway, 2004).

 

            According to David Perrin (2004), Police are forbidden to arrest drug-pushers around syringe-distribution centers in New South Wales because of a memorandum of understanding between the NSW Police and NSW Health Department. Because of the memorandum of understanding between police and health officials, it is clear that the local Redfern Police have their hands tied. The memorandum requires police to turn a blind eye to law-breakers and the human misery they create. This policy delivers the drug market to drug pushers and criminals, thus allowing drug money to flow into the hands of international criminals and terrorists that control world heroin production. Assisting the drug industry with syringe distribution, injecting-rooms and hands-off policing for drug-pushers leaves the Aboriginal community in Redfern vulnerable to the heroin that does get through. Police that walk the streets of Redfern every day know that drug use is the biggest cause of the problems in that community (www.newsweekly.com.au). Brown (2005), one of the particular concerns in Redfern is the endemic drug problems in the area (www.reportage.uts.edu.au).   

 

Alcohol Problem in Australia

           

            Alcohol use plays a significant role in Australian culture. For most Australians alcohol is the drug of choice but rarely looked upon as a drug. Many young people see alcohol use as a rite of passage as do some parents and other adults in the community. Alcohol plays a considerable role in adolescent youth culture and in their search for identity. Peers have a strong influence in adolescent culture and alcohol consumption remains a group activity. As highlighted in research on designer drinks, the labeled clothes young people wear and the music they like are just as important in actually producing a social identity as the drinks they choose (Brain and Parker, 1997).  The role of communities and the cultural context in which drug and alcohol use occurs is an extremely important factor in determining the extent an type of harm associated with a particular drug. Young people have voiced concerns about the changing world, specifically feelings of hopelessness, despondency and uncertainty about their future (Shanahan et al, 1999). While data that a higher proportion of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community abstain from alcohol than is the case for the non-indigenous population, alcohol misuse in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities around Australia remains a major and critical public health issue. The contribution of alcohol to a range of acute social problems, including violence and particularly domestic violence, has gained considerable media attention and generated much debate in recent times. Alcohol and substance misuse is now a recognized crisis in Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander communities. High-risk drinking is more prevalent among New South Wales adults who are single, have not finished high school, live in rural areas and who are Australian-born. The most disadvantaged males and females were more likely to consume alcohol at hazardous levels than those in less disadvantaged groups.

 

Alcohol-related crime, violence and anti social behaviour

           

            Alcohol is linked to a high proportion of crimes of violence and public disorder. It has been shown that alcohol-related violence is a major player in harms suffered by 'acute drinkers, with near to half of all alcohol-related deaths in Australia due to the violence (English et al, 1995). Studies of adult offenders in New South Wales have shown that 34 per cent had been drinking prior to commiting their most serious offense. Of these 34 percent, 67 percent had consumed more than 12 standard drinks. Furthermore, most offenders convicted of assault admitted to being under the influence of alcohol at the time they committed their offense (Kevin, 1992). Alcohol is known to contribute to domestic violence. Young people in de facto relationships or married face a higher risk of being a victim or perpetrator of domestic violence when one party drinks at high levels. Research clearly illustrates a much higher risk for young people who misuse alcohol with respect to antisocial, delinquent or criminal behaviors, either as victims or as perpetrators. The odds of committing an alcohol-related offense such as physical abuse, property damage, theft, public disturbance and verbal abuse al decreased with age (Makkai, 1997).

            It is widely accepted that one of the most complex social issues affecting communities all over the world is the use and misuse of illicit drugs and alcohol.  The Redfern-Waterloo area is no different to most other areas in this regard in terms of being faced with the challenges brought on by the impact of drug and alcohol use in the community. The problems caused by alcohol and drug use and misuse include unsafely discarded needles and syringes, intoxication, dealing and using public places and violence all of which can contribute to negative perceptions of the community image. Alcohol and other drug use substantially contribute to death, injury, illness, crime, mental health and social problems both to drug users and to the wider community. Some Aboriginal communities have problems with substance abuse by young people and adults, including alcohol abuse. Substance abuse can be associated with offending in many ways, from the commission of break and enters to obtain alcohol to the association of alcohol abuse with violence. Indigenous Australians are very much aware of an alcohol problem. A large proportion of the population recognizes alcohol consumption and alcohol-related violence as a serious issue. Indigenous people of all ages do realize that the consumption of alcohol is a problem and that one of the major issues surrounding consumption is alcohol-related violence. Notwithstanding such concerns, it remains the case that indigenous drinkers continue to consume at hazardous and harmful levels. The results of such drinking are often alcohol-related social disorder, including violence. Most alcohol-related social disorder, however, is confined to a select, core group who perpetrate most of the violence who constitute most of the victims.

 


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