The Wheeler Centre
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The Big Dry: Alcohol and Us
In our backyards, balconies and beer gardens – Australians get along famously with booze. Drinking is an entrenched part of our national identity: it’s a recurrent theme in our pop culture, a scene-setter for friendship, a supposedly inherent part of work and play.
Lately, though, as the personal, social and public health costs of drinking become clear, many Australians are reconsidering our indulgent traditions. Some have even suggested that alcohol will go the way of the cigarette once its connection to chronic or life-threatening illnesses is fully acknowledged.
Jill Stark is the author of High Sobriety: My Year Without Booze. As an Age reporter, she’s written extensively about the escalating toll of alcohol abuse in Australia. Writer Jenny Valentish’s book, Woman of Substances, tells her own story (as well as those found in rehab facilities, halfway houses and AA groups), as she explored the paths people take into and out of addiction. In the process, she’s discovered that women’s experiences of substance abuse and treatment differ greatly from those of men.
Along with Chris Raine – founder of Hello Sunday Morning, an online initiative aiming to refocus drinking behaviour on individual choice, rather than cultural expectation – and host Jacinta Parsons, they join us for a fresh discussion about Australia’s changing relationship with alcohol, and how we can anticipate and deal with the side effects.
Jacinta Parsons is a broadcaster, writer, speaker and author of memoir Unseen: The secret life of chronic illness. She is an ambassador for the Crohn’s and Colitis Association of Australia. She currently hosts Afternoons on ABC Melbourne, delivering a popular mix of art, culture and ideas.
Jenny Valentish is a regular contributor to the Sydney Morning Herald and the Saturday Paper, and former editor of Time Out Melbourne and Triple J’s Jmag.
She grew up in Slough, a satellite town of London, and moved to Australia in 2006. She quit drinking in 2009, which sparked a desire to explore the drives behind addiction. She has a graduate certificate in Alcohol and Other Drugs from Turning Point/Monash University.
Jill Stark is an award-winning journalist and author with a career spanning 18 years in both the UK and Australian media. She spent a decade on staff at the Age, covering health and social affairs as a senior writer and columnist, and now works as a media consultant and freelance writer contributing to ABC Online, SBS Digital and the Saturday Paper.
Her first book, High Sobriety: My Year Without Booze is a bestselling memoir that was longlisted in the Walkley Book of the Year Awards and shortlisted in the Kibble Literary Awards. Her second book will be published in 2018.
Chris is the founder and CEO of Hello Sunday Morning (HSM) – an organisation that helps people to change their relationship with alcohol. Hello Sunday Morning was started after one particularly bad hangover when Chris was 22-years-old – when he decided to take a year off alcohol and share his journey online through a blog.
Six years later, thanks to the support of corporate foundations as well as governments across Australia and New Zealand, the Hello Sunday Morning community now sits at over 120,000 people through a number of mobile-accessible products aimed at supporting individuals with the clinical tools and support to change their relationship with alcohol from wherever it is to wherever they want it to be.