Sharing stories of positive alcohol culture change in Port Phillip  

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Young adults are drinking less alcohol than previous generations and it’s an emerging story that three Melbourne councils support and want to better understand.  

City of Port Phillip is partnering with City of Melbourne and City of Stonnington to deliver a new project that supports a positive change to alcohol culture for young people, thanks to VicHealth’s $1.3 million Alcohol Culture Change grants initiative for local councils.  

The three councils will work with research partner Turning Point as well as community groups, workplaces, licensed businesses, and universities to develop and deliver the What’s Your Story? project

The project uses $266,000 in funding from VicHealth to improve alcohol culture in late-night entertainment precincts.

VicHealth defines ‘alcohol culture’ as the way people drink including the formal rules, social norms, attitudes and beliefs around what is and what is not socially acceptable for a group of people before, during and after drinking.  

Port Phillip Council Mayor Bernadene Voss said the project aims to change drinking culture by sharing stories that normalise low-risk drinking, and reducing drinking impacts on local residents in the late-night entertainment precincts of St Kilda, Melbourne CBD and Chapel Street.  

“It was found during the project’s scoping process that while average alcohol consumption is declining among young adults, the alcohol related harms they are experiencing remains stable, “ Cr Voss said.  

Research partner, Dr Michael Savic, said that the findings of the scoping study indicate that:  

• Young people said that choosing not to drink is often unacceptable, and without a ‘good excuse’, choosing not to drink is likely to have negative social consequences.  

• A masculine drinking culture (what it means to be a man) can contribute to heavy drinking.  

• The visible and normalised nature of public drunkenness makes it easier to justify a ‘big night out’

What’s Your Story involves collecting and sharing personal stories of young adults with regard to alcohol culture. Stories that focus on socialising with friends and enjoying late night music venues were collected which highlight social norms.  

“It’s promising that in initial stages, the project found storytelling was an effective way to improve understanding of alcohol culture,” Cr Voss said  

“Council looks forward to hearing stories of positive alcohol culture change over the next two years to help us better understand how changing drinking patterns will influence social dynamics and the night time entertainment economy in the City of Port Phillip,” she said.

Other findings from the scoping study include:  

  • Some 18 – 24 year olds have noticed that young adults in Australia consume less alcohol than young adult populations have in the past.  
  • The atmospheres of place within our entertainment precincts and being part of the community plays an influential role in drinking culture.  

 VicHealth CEO Jerril Rechter said the new project aimed to increase social support for low-risk drinking and reduce the impact of alcohol on the health and wellbeing of Victorians.  

“Our research shows 40 per cent of young adults feel obliged to drink alcohol when people around them are drinking. We need to help young people understand you don’t have to drink to have a good time or fit in,” Ms Rechter said.  

 “This project is an important part of VicHealth’s three-year Alcohol Strategy – and a step towards achieving VicHealth’s 10-year goal of seeing 200,000 more Victorians drinking less alcohol by 2023,”  she said. 



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