16 December 2019

ACT Policing says party goers shouldn't fear asking police for help

| Dominic Giannini
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ED at The Canberra Hospital

Canberra’s emergency services are urging people to party safely over the festive season where party-goers are prone to drinking more. Photos: Dominic Giannini.

As Christmas celebrations take off, ACT emergency services want you to ask yourself: what would your grandmother think if you ended up in the Emergency Department (ED) over Christmas because you drank too much?

As Canberra’s emergency services prepare for a spike in incidents, Chief Police Officer (CPO) Michael Chew has co-launched the new ‘What Would They Think?’ campaign, urging people to party safely over the festive season.

“What would your grandma think if she had to take you to court to answer an assault charge? What would your dad think if he had to come down and pick you up from the watch house?” he said.

“Worse yet, what if your family had to attend the ED because you were intoxicated to a stage where you could not look after yourself?

“We are not about stopping people from having a good time and enjoying the festive season, but there is a certain responsibility that has to come with that as well.”

Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Mick Gentleman, says it is important to plan ahead to make sure you and your friends stay safe throughout the night.

“If you are going to go out and party, make sure you have a plan to get home safely. Talk to your friends and relatives about the plan you have for the evening, and party safe,” he said.

“We see more people coming to the ED [around this time of year] so we want to ensure that people are safe over the Christmas period.”

The ED can see people admitted with anything from life-threatening head injuries to minor cuts, fractures and lacerations, says Canberra Hospital’s Director of Emergency Medicine Dr Greg Hollis.

ACT emergency staff with Mick Gentleman

Minister Mick Gentleman with ACT emergency service staff.

Dr Hollis says the main thing to keep an eye on if your friends have drunk too much or taken drugs is a change in behaviour that may lead to a more serious incident.

“It’s all about common sense,” he said. “[The things to look out for are] if someone is changing behaviour, getting agitated, experiencing delirium or varying levels of consciousness.”

If something does go wrong, CPO Chew says party-goers should not be afraid to approach police in an emergency as their first priority is public safety.

“I would like to think that people are comfortable with approaching police at all times, especially if they are in a dangerous situation or they are in a stage of intoxication where they cannot look after themselves,” he said.

“If people are enjoying themselves and they feel in danger or need assistance then they should come and approach the police and we will work out ways to get them home safely.”

“Policing is not all about taking people to the watch house. We have a great relationship with other support services, and we also contact family and friends to pick people up if we can.”

ACT Policing has long employed a harm minimisation strategy to help avoid serious incidents, but everyone has a role to play, CPO Chew says.

“We are supportive of harm minimisation, but it is important that people take responsibility. The last thing we want to do is lock people up.”

ACT will employ more patrols over the festive period, especially in entertainment precincts, while the ‘What Would They Think?’ campaign will continue to run beyond the festive season until the end of next year.

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“You shouldn’t fear asking for help after abusing recreational drugs” — AFP

“Regardless of local laws we will prosecute recreational drug use by Commonwealth law” — also AFP

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