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News from Australia and New Zealand
  1. Ian Scott
  1. Kidsafe Australia, Suite 4, Level 1, 230 Church Street, Richmond, Victotia 3121, Australia (Tel: +61 3 94271008, fax: +61 3 9421 3831, e-mail: iscott{at}peg.apc.org)

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    More Safe Communities and a communities conference

    New Zealand and Australia have significantly increased their representation of communities and centres affiliated with the WHO Safe Communities. In 1999 the New Zealand Communities of Waitakere and Waimakariri and the Australian Communities SHOROC and Ryde have been inducted into the movement and the Royal Children's Hospital Child Safety Centre (Melbourne) has been inducted as a Safe Community Affiliated Support Centre.

    The details of the programs that were the basis of acceptance as Safe Communities are available from the secretariat, which is based at the Department of Public Health Sciences in the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden (www.ki.se).

    The Waitakere Community, a city within Auckland, was inducted at a ceremony conducted as part of the Community Safety Conference, Pacific Rim 1999. The conference was a great success, not least because Waitakere City is a diverse community with very strong links to Maori and Pacific Islander communities.

    Associated with the conference was meeting in which New Zealand colleagues continued their efforts toward the development of a network of people and organisations interested in injury prevention. At the time of writing it is hoped that the network will be established in the second half of 1999.

    Efforts to increase cross-Tasman cooperation

    Following the Pacific Rim conference there have been conscious efforts to increase the linkage between New Zealand and Australian injury prevention groups and individuals. The Australian Injury Prevention Network has established a liaison group to foster exchange. Suggestions as to how this might be done are most welcome. Current efforts centre on ensuring that information is shared; for example, Injury Network minutes and documents are to be cross posted, web sites are being asked to cross link and so forth.

    Details of the Australian Network, including a strategic plan, can be found at www.nisu.flinders.edu.au or by writing to the Secretariat c/o Child Safety Centre, Royal Children's Hospital, Flemington Road, Parkville, Victoria 3052, Australia.

    Australian National Injury Prevention Conference

    The Third National Injury Prevention Conference was conducted in Brisbane in May and held by all to be a resounding success. The conference, under the title “The Challenge of Integration” broke new ground by being co-hosted by centres for accident research and road safety and for research on disability and rehabilitation medicine. The Australian Injury Prevention Network ran the conference with principal sponsorship provided by the national Department of Health. With 200 presentations and 500 delegates, about 50 of whom were international visitors, the conference generated what convenor, Professor Rod McClure, called a “buzz” of excitement.

    Noting the challenge to do better in presenting conferences that John Langley wrote about in his December 1998 editorial there were some interesting points about administration. Specific time set aside for posters with brief presentations by authors worked extremely well. Extra effort to support technical equipment ensured that sessions ran well and attracted strong positive comment.

    The profile of delegates has varied between injury conferences. The previous conference, also a success, specifically attracted and catered for grassroots practitioners, with low costs and specific sessions. The Injury Network is actively seeking ways to cater for both researchers and practitioners in the next conference in the year 2000.

    Compensation to victims for governments' failure to act?

    One of the papers at the Australian conference followed directly from a Barry Pless editorial in Injury Prevention. In the September 1998 issue, Barry used legal cases where governments were held accountable to victims for their failure to act on hepatitis C and were made to pay compensation, to ask why this is not occurring in relation to preventable injuries. This editorial inspired quite some discussion and the NSW Injury Council acted by seeking out an interested lawyer to consider exactly this issue in a paper to the injury conference.

    In the Australian context it is usual for “regulatory impact statements” to be prepared before the introduction of any regulation and these usually encompass some form of cost benefit analysis. The Chair of the NSW Council, Craig Patterson, together with fellow lawyer Louise Sinclair and Pam Albany from NSW Health wrote a paper exploring whether, and how, potential legal liability should be taken into account when these regulatory impact statements are prepared. Details will have to wait for the published paper but the interest was intense and the discussion vigorous.

    More on the cost of injury in Australia

    In 1997 the Victorian Department of Health funded the Monash University Accident Research Centre to estimate the lifetime cost of injury to the Victorian community. The work included estimates of the direct costs of care and indirect costs and was published as Report 124 from the centre. Using this work, Jerry Moller has since estimated the cost of injury for Australia as a whole and these tables are available from the Centre for Injury Studies at Flinders University, Adelaide (incorporating the National Injury Surveillance Unit, NISU). The Monash study can be found at www.general.monash.edu.au/muarc and the NISU tables at: www.nisu.flinders.edu.au/pubs/injcost.

    Update on indigenous injury

    Two new pieces of work illustrating both the degree of increased injury risk faced by indigenous peoples and some of the creative means available to address them have been published in New Zealand and Australia. Injury to Maori: Does it really have to be like this?, is a report of research into the level and pattern of injury to Maori that brings together both science and art. By blending statistical analysis with contemporary Maori writing the report is intended to draw attention to the statistics in a meaningful, human way. Copies of the report can be obtained from Injury Prevention Unit, ACC, PO Box 242, Wellington, New Zealand.

    The second report is a Study of Injury in Five Cape York Communities. Cape York is the northern peninsula in eastern Australia and the report covers the means used to document injury in five small remote communities. It shows how a range of information gathering techniques can provide a profile of injury that compliments existing data. The report can be obtained through the NISU in Adelaide (www.nisu.flinders.edu.au).

    Criminal liability and intoxication

    In 1997 Australia was enlivened by the public debate that followed the acquittal of a well known football player on charges of assaulting two women on the grounds that he was too drunk to be responsible, that he was too drunk to know what he was doing, and could therefor not form the intention of committing assault.

    The Federal Attorney General urged his state counterparts to “do something” about the so-called drunk's defence. The Law Reform Committee of the Victorian Parliament undertook a detailed examination of the issue and has released a report entitled Criminal Liability for Self-Induced Intoxication. The committee's recommendation is that evidence of self induced intoxication should continue to be used in determining questions of criminal intent and “voluntariness”. The committee Chair, and most of those that gave submissions to the review, is of the view that the problem is not one of law but of poor decision making and that the magistrate's decision in dismissing the charge against the football player was in error.

    As a solution to what they see as a justified public concern over this matter they suggest that in all serious offences, the “defence” of self induced intoxication must be heard before a judge and jury. The idea being that a defendant must convince a jury. The full report can be obtained from the Law Reform Committee, Level 8, 35 Spring Street, Melbourne 3000, Australia or downloaded from www.lawreform.org.au.

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