A GROUP of local health professionals say they’re concerned about Fremantle’s growing reliance on alcohol and are considering a formal alliance to help tackle its side-effects.
Their call has coincided with the release of the Australian Medical Association WA branch’s latest journal, which led with an article claiming the state was “drowning in alcohol”.
Fremantle council is already sitting on applications for large taverns at the Warders Cottages, old Police Station, Manning Buildings, Woolstores and the J-Sheds, while there are apparently more in the pipeline. A half-dozen small bars have also popped up in the last two years.
Wray Avenue GP Catherine Douglass says there’s an urgent need for an alliance so health professionals who deal with alcohol-related problems can work together to develop harm-minimisation strategies before the pubs boom really hits.
“As a concerned AMA members and GP in Freo, I am particularly concerned about binge drinking of women, and of youth, and health services in Freo are already struggling,” Dr Douglass said.
High Street clinical psychologist Rachael O’Byrne says another role of the alliance would be to lobby Fremantle council to protect services such as hers from exposure to alcohol-based businesses. Her practice is rare in specialising in alcoholism, but she’s currently fighting an application for a small bar next door. She says the last thing her clients want to hear during a counselling session is people having fun in a bar.
Dr O’Byrne says when the council decided to cut red tape and delegate approval for small bars to planning officers, it paved the way for bars to pop up in inappropriate locations, such as next to schools, without anyone knowing beforehand.
She says that as more alcohol becomes available in Fremantle, services like hers will become more important, and they should be protected.
Councillor Ingrid Waltham, who met Dr O’Byrne recently to discuss the issue, says bars wouldn’t be approved near schools, but was concerned enough about the potential for conflict to successfully push for all delegated decisions to now be run before council.
Cr Waltham is more concerned about big taverns, and this week successfully moved a motion to have the city’s planners look at ways of being able to reduce their size.
She says one way of doing this could be to limit taverns to a certain percentage of a mixed use development, ensuring they were balanced by other activities.
WA police commissioner Chris Dawson has painted a sobering picture about the effect of alcohol consumption in Fremantle already.
In a submission to Liquor Licensing in support of Dr O’Byrne’s challenge to the bar next door, he says disturbance and public disorder offences in Fremantle in 2016 were seven times greater than the average metropolitan rate, and that the level of alcohol-related harm in the city is conclusively elevated.
by STEVE GRANT