School’s alcohol awareness program slammed

School’s alcohol awareness program slammed

Wallan Secondary College in Victoria had planned on taking its Year 10 students to Chasers nightclub this month to hear from drug and alcohol experts.

However, the Education Department cancelled the visit, saying that while it welcomed any work to reduce the negative impact of drugs and alcohol in the community, a nightclub was “not an appropriate educational venue” for school students.

“The department has spoken with the school, who have agreed that students will not be attending the event,” a department spokesman told The Herald Sun.

Chasers nightclub, located in South Yarra, had coordinated the “interactive, innovative and relevant” program with a drug and alcohol educator. Under the program, students were to learn about identity checks, drugs, bouncers and alcohol’s harmful effects.

However, Deakin University prof­essor, John Toumbourou, slammed the program, telling The Herald Sun that it “defied logic” from a public health point of view.

“Why should a program go to the trouble of actually promoting that venue to these children? Education needs are best met for children by their own teachers, where we can be sure that the information coming to them is reliable,” Toumbourou said.

He added the alcohol industry had a vested interest in maintaining alcohol sales.

“There’s a danger that the industry can make itself look safe and responsible, there’s a problem of whitewashing some of the truth — the industry is actually not harmless; it is harmful to young people.”

However, Ashley Gurney, drug educator, said he had run his program – AlcoCups – in universities, school classrooms and sports clubs and was convinced Chasers was an ideal venue.

“I can guarantee that they will get a lot more out of it than sitting in a classroom listening to guest speakers,” Gurney said.

The program, including talks by police and nightclub staff, would cover topics such as acceptable behaviour, how to get home safely, and illicit drugs.

Chasers nightclub owner, Martha Tsamis, said the program wasn’t about trying to convert teenagers to be customers.

“They’ll be our customers in five years’ time. Let’s get them to understand the rules,” Tsamis said.