My name is Australia and I have an alcohol problem

Twenty three year old Irish man Thomas Keaney allegedly died from one punch four days after Christmas Day. As Ireland lost a son, Australia gained another gruesome statistic in its failing battle with alcohol and violence.

One punch deaths have become such a regular feature of life in Australia that a disgusting lingual coinage is commonly used and accepted to describe them.  ‘King Hits’ should not be in the conversational currency of any society. That it is, is simply barbaric.

These are senseless wasteful tragedies seen too often in Australia.  The grief of families is too regularly spilled across your mastheads and the grainy eerie CCTV footage of the last moments of the victim is too frequently played.  A violent street culture grows strong Down Under and this nation is failing to grapple it.

Walk certain streets in Melbourne, Sydney or Perth in the moonlit hours and the chances of being physically assaulted multiply rapidly. Any city can be dangerous after dark, but there is naked randomness of king hits in Australian cities that notch your wariness and vulnerability to a level not experienced in other cities across the globe.

18 year old Australian Thomas Kelly died in 2012 from a single punch he received as he walked through Sydney’s city centre. 17 year old Cameron Lowe died in 2010 due to a punch he received on the way to buy food. 16 year old Justin Galligan died after he was king hit by a gatecrasher at a party. Many lives lost due to one problem- Alcohol.

Not drugs. Not drugs and alcohol. Simply alcohol. An Australian study late last year reviewed 90 king-hit cases resulting in death over a 12-year period to December 2012. It found alcohol was a major contributing factor to the violent fatalities.  Every State across this continent is grappling with alcohol fuelled street violence. In Victoria night-time weekend assaults increased by roughly 40 per cent since 2000, while alcohol-related ambulance call-outs have more than doubled.

The death of the youthfully smiling 18 year old Kelly by a king hit in Kings Cross rocked Australia and carved your society’s attitude to the ‘grog’ wide open. Heavy drinking has been part of Australian life since the arrival of the First Fleet in 1787 and today in a nation of bizarre drive thru off licences it still retains its untouchable position. From ten in the morning until the end of play Victoria Bitter’s sponsorship of Australian cricket is proudly displayed, while in the other Australian religions of rugby and footy, the influence of the keg seeps through sports.

Like Ireland Australia’s drink soaked culture is proving hard to put down but unlike Ireland Australia’s drinking culture bristles with machoism. Heavy drinking is common in Ireland but unprovoked aggression is not.Australia the first step is to recognise you have a problem.

The subject of this article was discussed on Ireland’s national broadcaster RTE and can be listened to here.