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Message from the Chairman and Chief Executive

This year’s 2017 FARE Annual Alcohol Poll revealed that more than 81 per cent of Australians believe more needs to be done to reduce the harm caused by alcohol. This is the eighth consecutive year that the poll has registered community concern of this magnitude.

Doing something about this has become FARE’s vision - to stop harm cause by alcohol. This vision is manifest in the 2014-2017 Strategic Plan, which the Board unhesitatingly reaffirmed in thoroughly reviewing FARE’s strategic direction earlier this year. It is the clearest possible representation of FARE’s purpose.

More than 15 years since its establishment, FARE has become a resilient health promotion charity. We have sustained the funds bestowed to us by the Parliament on behalf of all Australians, and through sound stewardship built a world-class organisation. This year’s financial statements show a strong financial position with the corpus value preserved and revenues from other sources increased.

Our duty is to steward these resources responsibly and to employ them strategically in pursuit of our vision and the realisation of our strategic goals.

This year has been intense. FARE has actively engaged in elections conducted nationally and in the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory and Western Australia, and successfully campaigned for the strengthening of alcohol policy.

Significant effort has also been invested in protecting the ‘last drinks’ policies in Sydney and Queensland. The New South Wales Government commissioned former High Court Justice Ian Callinan to review the lockout laws, which resulted in only minor relaxations of the 2014 availability restrictions imposed by the O’Farrell Government.

The frightening availability of alcohol (trading hours and outlets numbers) continues to be a concern for public health. While the last drinks policies in Sydney and Queensland have been protected for now, it has become clear that supply-side policy interventions remain the hardest to implement and even harder to protect. This is despite the growing recognition that packaged liquor outlets are a vector for rising rates of family violence and the increasing burden of disease.

Reviews of Liquor Acts were instigated in a number of jurisdictions including Victoria, South Australia and the Northern Territory. FARE developed its own submissions and encouraged like-minded organisation to make their own. Responding to these reviews as well as to the frequent Parliamentary inquiries is demanding, but mostly results in small public health wins and in some instances larger ones.

Community sentiment for change is clearest in the area of alcohol marketing. The Annual Alcohol Poll shows this.

The Booze Free Sport campaign is tapping into and mobilising this community concern. The campaign is an initiative to phase out the commercial sponsorship of professional sport by alcohol brands and bring to an end the exemption that allows alcohol advertisements to be broadcast during children’s viewing times. Booze Free Sport has expanded over the year and become the focus of our public campaign efforts. FARE and its coalition of supporters will steadily ramp up efforts in 2018.

Governments have done some good things during the year. Notably, the Commonwealth has taken important steps towards addressing the tragedy of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, funding new diagnostic, clinical and preventive programs and services. FARE was the beneficiary of a modest amount of this funding, which has allowed us to widen the scope of our innovative public awareness campaigns, Pregnant Pause and Women Want to Know.

We have also stretched our wings in a collaboration with the United Kingdom-based Institute of Alcohol Studies to produce Anytime Anyplace, Anywhere?, a comparative analysis of interventions to control alcohol’s availability. This project successfully tested the value of international collaborations by demonstrating the common interest and shared experience in alcohol control.

In February, Professor Emmanuel Kuntsche was announced as the new director of the Centre for Alcohol Policy Research (CAPR) to replace Professor Robin Room. CAPR is FARE’s partnership with La Trobe University, and recruiting the Swiss-based Professor Kuntsche will strengthen this partnership and ensure the Centre’s future. Emmanuel took up his position in August 2017.

The impending expiry of the 2014-2017 Strategic Plan meant a thorough strategic review and resulted in the adoption of a new strategic plan with effect from 1 July 2017. We have refined our strategic goals and given new emphasis to FARE’s leadership role in the public health sector. Leading change becomes our first strategic priority. This will place greater weight on making a difference and is our response to the high level of community discontent about the magnitude of alcohol harm in Australia.

Necessarily, the strategic policy and research goals remain at the heart of what we do. Research underpins policy development and feeds FARE’s advocacy for policy change.

The ‘merchandising of doubt’, or the denying of science, has become the ‘go-to tactic’ for the world’s addictive industries – alcohol, tobacco and gambling. These tactics are hard to combat without sustained and diligent work by defenders of the public interest. Thus, in the age of fake news and alternative facts, FARE must redouble its efforts to combat the perpetuation of mistruths.

Consequently, defending the public interest takes on even greater importance in our challenge to bring about change.

We commend our 2017-2022 Strategic Plan.

This year the Board has welcomed two new directors – Associate Professor Nadine Ezard and Teresa Dyson - and seen the retirement of Justice Trevor Riley QC and Professor Kate Conigrave. We thank Kate and Trevor for their contributions to FARE’s work. Kate spent nearly seven years as a director providing input from her work as a frontline medical practitioner.

Our small but extremely dedicated team of directors and staff is responsible for delivering these outcomes and meeting the challenges to come. On behalf of all Australians, we pledge to strive to stop alcohol harm in Australia.