A massive weekend of violence in Sydney and Melbourne has put a spotlight on the folly of measures to date to address escalating anti-social behaviour.
Recent weeks have seen fundamentally peaceful demonstrations in Sydney protesting the draconian ‘lockout’ laws that have all but killed the city’s late-night economy and atmosphere.
But Saturday night saw police calling for reinforcements to contain an outbreak of fighting on the street, with anecdotal reports of up to 200 people involved in a brawl that began outside Metro Theatre and spilled down George St.
It is unknown exactly how the melee began, nor how much was attributable to intoxication, but police struggled to gain control of scuffles at multiple locations over the course of more than half an hour. There were several arrests.
A little earlier in Melbourne, two rival gangs clashed at Federation Square amid the popular annual Moomba Festival, celebrating the anniversary of the movement that led to the Labour Day holiday, and families and revellers ran for cover.
The ‘Apex’ gang of Africans and the ‘Islander 23’ gang of Pacific Islander youths brawled en masse around Flinders Street, with reports of over a hundred gang members throwing punches, and chairs thrown across City Square, blocking the path of trams.
As authorities express incredulity, Professor Allen Perry from the University of Adelaide attributes the much talked about increase in violent behaviour in youth to the long-term effect of the degraded family environment.
“The reason why there appears to be an increase in youth violence … is because of changes in socialisation, particularly through family and early environments,” Professor Perry told The New Daily.
“This has occurred through the last 20 to 30 years – the self-discipline that is the product of a stable family environment has significantly declined.”
Perry lectures in criminology at the University of Adelaide, and says affected young people are “more inclined to impulsive behaviour”, which he claims leads to anti-social activity such as violence and aggression.
As NSW ponders the merit of strangling its capital’s nightlife, with a moralistic Premier advocating the continuation of the lockouts if not further restrictions, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews recently confirmed he did not support such legislation in Melbourne.
NSW Assistant Commissioner Mick Fuller addressed the issue in Sydney, calling for greater personal accountability and warning that drunken bad behaviour was unacceptable.
“It’s time to start taking responsibility for your actions. Know your limits – drink sensibly, plan ahead and think about others.”
But experts continue to shun the supposed significance of alcohol as the cause of unprovoked violence and anti-social behaviour, citing that underlying character is the greater drive.
After two such high-profile and yet completely unrelated incidences of wanton violence that seem to corroborate this observation, perhaps governments can find some lesson in the comparative circumstances.
Note: while calling for the public to be more accountable, NSW Police also promised to further clamp down on venues to ensure compliance. Just to be sure.