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Enough is Enough

The two-year anniversary of the death of their son Thomas Kelly was bittersweet for the Kelly family. While mourning their loss, the family also took comfort that their campaign for change was working – with the anniversary marked by the halving of alcohol related violence injuries at St Vincent’s Hospital.

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The two-year anniversary of the death of their son Thomas Kelly was bittersweet for the Kelly family. While mourning their loss, the family also took comfort that their campaign for change was working – with the anniversary marked by the halving of alcohol related violence injuries at St Vincent’s Hospital.

It was the tragic death of Sydney teenager Kelly, killed in a shocking ‘coward punch’ attack in 2012, and a spate of similar violent attacks, that mobilised newspaper media to declare ‘Enough is enough’ and help the campaign for change.

The results speak for themselves: an 80% reduction in serious head injuries at St Vincent’s Hospital; 40% reduction in assaults on licensed premises, violent assaults halved in Kings Cross…

The attack on Kelly, and the similar death of Daniel Christie, plus horrific head injuries to other young people in what became known as a cycle of alcohol fuelled violence, led Thomas Kelly’s parents to plea for a dramatic shift in our drinking culture.

Mr Kelly called for a campaign as effective as previous anti-smoking and drink driving campaigns, plus more police on the streets and a crackdown on venues.

It was time to take action.

Our newspapers heeded the call. The Sydney Morning Herald launched its ‘Safer Sydney Ad Challenge’ campaign and challenged readers to be part of the solution to help reduce the incidence of alcohol-fuelled violence.

The Herald asked readers to come up with a 30-second video advertisement or poster campaign aimed at curbing the prevalence of alcohol-related violence. While the Herald maintained pressure on the O’Farrell government to take action on the issue and featured prominent editorials to stop alcohol fuelled violence, the idea was that the culture of a society can be swayed by grass-roots movement at the bottom, as well as from leaders at the top.

The campaign attracted 1500 entries, and crowd design website DesignCrowd came on board with the Challenge and launched an affiliated competition to their audience which has seen entries come from as far as Britain, the Philippines, Greece, Azerbaijan, Jamaica and Romania.

The Daily Telegraph demanded ‘enough is enough’ in a series of news stories confronting front page headlines, rallying calls for change among its readers and editorials about further incidents of alcohol fuelled violence and calling for an end to the carnage.

Consistent campaigning by our newspapers resulted in then NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell pledge to take action on the issue with a package of tough new reforms aimed at curbing violent assaults caused by alcohol fuelled violence, including 1.30am lockouts from licensed premises, mandatory sentencing for drunken attacks and greater police powers.

In less than a year, there had been a 40% drop in alcohol-related assaults at licensed premises in Kings Cross in the past year and assault rates are the lowest statewide in a decade, according to latest NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research findings for the period from October last year to September this year.

St Vincent’s Hospital reported a reduction of 50% in the number of people suffering injuries due to alcohol-fuelled violence.

In addition, violence in the Kings Cross hot spot had plummeted, according to Dr Timothy Steel, the head of neurosurgery at St Vincent’s Hospital. He said the number of Kings Cross revelers being admitted with serious head injuries was down 80% on 2013 and there had been no fatal single blow injuries in Kings Cross in 2014.

In addition, ambulance officers report a 30% drop in violent assaults in Kings Cross, while Assistant Police Commissioner Mark Murdoch said the number of assaults had halved since the new lockout legislation introduced by February 24th 2014.

Dr Steel agreed that the combination of influential journalism and political action achieved this result.

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