By Melissa Stoneham

I attended the Global Alcohol Policy Conference (GAPC) 2017 in Melbourne during the first week of October. Organised by FARE, the PHAA and the Global Alcohol Policy Alliance, this conference  showcased the latest research and developments from Australia and beyond in the field of alcohol policy. The Conference started with addresses from the Hon Dr David Gillespie MP, Professor Sally Casswell of the Global Alcohol Policy Alliance and Dag Rekve of the World Health Organisation, who highlighted that Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is now recognised as an alcohol-attributable disease in the WHO global burden of disease figures.  

Sessions at the Conference covered the many areas of alcohol policy, including issues such as increasing advertising and marketing regulations, industry tactics to subvert health advocates and alcohol policy makers, alcohol violence, moving towards minimum unit pricing for alcoholic drinks and increasing public awareness of the link between drinking and non-communicable diseases. Dr Bronwyn King, an Oncologist and tobacco control advocate noted how the majority of women she treats for breast cancer are unaware of the link between the disease and alcohol consumption. Dr King and many other presenters noted the policy parallels between the unhealthy commodities of tobacco, alcohol and processed unhealthy foods, calling for a united front to powerful industry forces in order to coherently tackle NCDs.

Senator Richard Di Natale chaired the plenary ‘Influencing those in power’, and spoke candidly about how the susceptibility of government to industry lobbyists and tactics has resulted in a pay-for-policy situation. Senator Di Natale urged delegates to make a submission to the Inquiry by the Select Committee into the Political Influence of Donations.

On Thursday delegates were treated to an oration by June Oscar AO, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission. Ms Oscar discussed lessons learned in developing alcohol policy in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, the impossibility of closing the gap without addressing alcohol abuse, and the need for a middle ground between blanket restrictions and actively facilitating harmful drinking behaviours.

For a wrap up of day one, take a look at this short video featuring our Director, Dr Mel Stoneham and PHAA National President, Michael Moore:

Here are a couple of photos from the conference.