FARE is an independent, noisy and effective public-interest body in Australia successfully working to stop the harm caused by alcohol. Through collaborative research, FARE builds on the world’s scientific body of knowledge about alcohol and leverages that evidence to advocate public policy and foster programs to reduce the devastation of people’s misuse of alcohol.
We have a duty and a responsibility to carefully conserve resources, but at the same time make effective use of these resources to meet our aim to stop the harm caused by alcohol. For a public health promotion charity with ‘skin in the game’, which does more than simply donate funds to support service delivery, this calls for a new, more ambitious and courageous approach.
Consequently, FARE has become increasingly engaged in identifying how it should realise its vision of ‘stopping harm caused by alcohol’. The board is taking a more activist approach towards realising change. This is being executed in a considered fashion with regard to the legislative limitations and to the organisation’s constitution and resource constraints.
The toll of alcohol harm in Australia is too high. There are nearly 6,000 deaths annually, 160,000 hospitalisations and many other cases of harm. The direct cost to Australian governments is more than $10 billion a year. Each week there are new research reports pointing to the range of both short- and long-term harm caused by alcohol. During the past year, French research showed the very significant contribution drinking has on the prevalence of dementia, and a study by the World Cancer Research Fund showed strong evidence that the risk of mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus and breast cancers increases with any amount of alcohol, and continues to rise with every drink.
One recent study, Alcohol use and burden for 195 countries and territories, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and published in the Lancet, showed there is no safe level of alcohol consumption.
FARE’s duty is to continue its advocacy leadership to reinforce a growing body of evidence that is exposes the true magnitude of alcohol harm. We are assisted to achieve this both through direct collaboration with the world-class Centre for Alcohol Policy Research (CAPR) at La Trobe University, which FARE supports financially, as well as through relationships with the international alcohol research fraternity.
The translation of this research into strong policy continues to be an organisational strength. In all forums FARE argues strongly for policy responses to meet this growing body of evidence.
However, this is a tough policy environment. Corporate vested interests are powerful, the behaviour of politicians repeatedly fall short of community expectations, and merchandising by the alcohol industry of community doubt about the science is rampant.
Confronted by this failure of governments to prioritise the health of the community over the interests of the alcohol industry, progress on significant public health policy takes time, but it can be achieved. In a jurisdiction with Australia’s heaviest drinkers, Michael Gunner’s Northern Territory Government (NTG) is arguably leading the world’s most progressive reform agenda on alcohol policy.
FARE’s contribution to this agenda has been significant and demonstrates that careful investment in strategic policy development, focused campaigning and strong stakeholder relations can and does deliver results. The vehicle for these reforms was the NTG’s commissioning of a comprehensive review of alcohol policies by former FARE director and former Chief Justice Trevor Riley QC.
Riley reported in October 2017, and the government immediately adopted 219 of the 220 recommendations, heralding the prospect of sustained change. Among the most significant recommendations for change were plans to introduce risk-based licencing, a re-write the Liquor Act, and a floor price for alcohol.
Given the magnitude of harm in the Territory, the successful implementation of Riley’s reform program will require a long-term commitment from a determined government to see them through. FARE is here to help.
The significance of the NT’s reform – the first jurisdiction to introduce a floor price – has reverberated around Australia. It constitutes the first major attack on the problem of cheap booze by any Australian administration since World War II.
However, it has become clear that a fundamental change of policy focus is required because supply-side interventions (price and availability), while powerful, are met with fierce resistance from vested interests. Demand-side interventions are required.
Forty years ago (1977) a Senate committee chaired by Dr Peter Baume tabled its report Drug problems in Australia – an intoxicated society? which acknowledged for the first time that alcohol was the major drug of abuse. Baume said, “We now see the use of leading sports people – for instance, members of the Australian Test Cricket Team – in the promotion and advertising of alcohol. It is perhaps a pity that sportsmen and sportswomen lend their prestige to the promotion of products which, when used to excess, are so demonstrably harmful to so many Australians,” and went on to call for a ban on alcohol advertising in sport.
The repeated failure by any government to heed those recommendations, has led FARE to establish its national End Alcohol Advertising in Sport campaign. The campaign’s purpose is to mobilise the widespread community concern about the targeting of children by the alcohol industry through its associations with major sports. Nine out of 10 Australians want the unfair exemption that allows the display of alcohol ads on television during sports broadcasts to be scrapped. FARE and its partners, including the Country Women’s Association, the colleges of Surgeons and Physicians, and The Uniting Church of Australia, are increasing their calls for change.
Throughout the year, important work continued on a range of core issues such as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and the development of a National Alcohol Strategy. We also achieved significant outcomes, including agreement by the Forum on Food Regulation to move to mandate pregnancy warning labels on all alcohol containers, after seven years of prevarication.
A highlight was the 2017 Global Alcohol Policy Conference in Melbourne. FARE was a joint host and a major contributor to this very successful conference. More than 100 international delegates attended and joined with the large contingent of Australians to participate in a festival of alcohol policy ideas.
We are pleased to report that FARE’s resilient corporate governance and operational performance continues. This year’s financial statements again show a strong financial position with the corpus value preserved and revenues from other sources increased.
In unpredictable investment markets, the decision was made to diversify the investment portfolio to reduce the overall volatility and reduce the drawdown of capital in times of stressed financial markets. The outcome has been a more efficient portfolio measured by the return relative to the level of risk.
During the 2017-18 financial year FARE went to market to ensure that its investments management requirements were being met. After testing the market, FARE remained with its current provider, with the board applying a social screen to its portfolio to enhance the most appropriate way to deliver FARE’s investment solutions.
Deploying these resources for good in this area of preventive health does bring challenges. Agitation by some political actors to curtail the activities of charities engaged in advocacy continues and poses a threat to FARE’s ability to actively campaign for policy change.
FARE’s submissions to Parliament in defence of its work have been extensively reported in the media and our work mentioned in the final report of the Senate inquiry into political donations. FARE also worked closely with the Community Council of Australia in these efforts to stop the imposition of politically motivated constraints on civil society organisations.
Finally, there were some changes of directors. Mark Addy retired from the Board and we welcomed Queensland University’s Dr Nic Carrah (March 2018) and Curtin University’s Professor Simone Pettigrew (September 2018). Chief Executive Michael Thorn was reappointed for a further period.
We would like to thank the directors and staff for their respective contributions to this power of work towards an Australia free from alcohol harm.
©2019 Foundation for Alcohol Research & Education | Level 1, 40 Thesiger Court, Deakin ACT 2600 | 02 6122 8600
©2019 Foundation for Alcohol Research & Education
Level 1, 40 Thesiger Court, Deakin ACT 2600 | 02 6122 8600