Safety concerns as nightlife resumes


The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre and Stay Kind Foundation are warning of safety concerns, particularly for young people, as easing of COVID-19 restrictions and the repeal of lockout laws brings nightlife back to Kings Cross and Sydney's CBD.

In July 2012, 18-year-old Thomas Kelly was killed in a one-punch attack in King Cross. Following his tragic death his family began the Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation to promote the prevention of harmful behaviour associated with alcohol use, self-harm and suicide.

In 2019 the foundation became the Stay Kind Foundation. Stay Kind operates the Take Kare Safe Space (TKSS) program in CBD locations that "looks after nightlife revellers on Friday and Saturday nights who are vulnerable, in distress or at risk of harm". Since 2014 the program has supported 66,455 people, two thirds of which were between the ages of 18 and 25.

"We are going to see a greater influx of young people coming into the city to enjoy nights out with less COVID-19 restrictions concurrent to repealed laws and health orders easing." — Natalie Zelinsky, COO of the Stay Kind Foundation (formally the Thomas Kelly Foundation)

Easing social and nightlife restrictions

The lifting of COVID-19 restrictions means that nightlife is starting to return to pre-COVID activity and along with it, the potential for alcohol and other drug harm. As explored in 'Drinking after lockdown: Here's what you should know', experts warn about the negative consequences of drastic increases in alcohol consumption after lockdowns include greater risk of mental health problems, violence in the community and alcohol dependence.

COO of Stay Kind, Natalie Zelinsky has urged for more support for young people, saying the easing of restrictions and repealed laws "could mean increased people in distress or at risk of harm, especially to those who haven't been to night-time venues in over a year, and those young people venturing out for the first time."

Find out more about Stay Kind at

Understanding alcohol-related harm

According to theAustralian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol:

"To reduce the risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury, healthy men and women should drink no more than 10 standard drinks a week and no more than 4 standard drinks on any one day. The less you drink, the lower your risk of harm from alcohol."

Several studies, analysed by the National Health and Medical Research Council, show that people who engage in binge drinking activity are at greater risk of injury from alcohol-related violence and accidents. Alcohol misuse is a major contributing factor in assaults and other violent crimes. Drinking large quantities of alcohol rapidly can also lead to adverse health effects such as headaches, vomiting, diarrhoea, passing out and alcohol poisoning – among other symptoms.

Drinking a lot of alcohol regularly over time is known to cause long term emotional and social health problems, as well as chronic and permanent damage to body organs. The Sax Institute's 45 and Up Study has confirmed the link between alcohol use and seven types of cancers, including mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, liver, bowel and breast cancer.

The study showed that people who consume 7-14 drinks a week raise their risk of alcohol-linked liver cancer by 48 per cent, and those drinking more than 14 drinks a week have a 202 per cent increased risk of liver cancer.

Young people and alcohol

Early alcohol use may interrupt cell growth in the frontal lobe of the brain, an area which does not reach full maturity until a person reaches their mid-twenties. Drinking, particularly heavy drinking, at any time before, during and after brain development, can have a negative effect on the way the brain works. Find out more at Respect Your Brain.

Getting help and prevention

If you plan on consuming alcohol or other drugs, its important to plan for the health and safety of yourself and others. These Tips for having a good night (PDF) suggest what you can do before, during and after your night to look after your health and wellbeing. Also check out Stay OK, which is full of tips and information on how to stay safe while partying.

Want help to cut down your alcohol use? Drinks Meter is a free app that provides users with confidential, personalised feedback about their alcohol use based on advice from doctors and current Australian guidelines. The app has tools to help you to track your habits, cut down your drinking and set weekly goals. Get started by downloading the Drinks Meter app through your app store.

For free and confidential advice 24/7 call the Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) on 1800 250 015. Counsellors are available to provide information, referrals, crisis counselling and support. Or start a Web Chat with an ADIS counsellor online Monday to Friday, 8.30am – 5pm. ADIS can also provide up-to-date information about service availability in your area during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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