The following is an edited extract of the address by NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione at the Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation Take Kare Gala on 16 September 2015.
I’d like to thank the Kelly family, and the Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation, for their contribution to bringing about a more responsible drinking culture and to making our communities safer.
There can be no doubt that the Foundation’s voice was a powerful catalyst in communicating the need for change. To acknowledge that, if we keep approaching things in the same way we always had, we’d continue to see the same outcomes. And to send a strong and very clear message that being intoxicated to the extent that your behaviour places people at risk and requires police or health intervention, is no longer okay. That using intoxication as an excuse for violent or antisocial behaviour, is no longer okay.
On the back of what was desperately tragic circumstances, we all made hard decisions. We took new approaches and the community, and your police officers, are seeing the results: dramatic and substantial falls in alcohol-related assaults.
In all of my years of policing, this has been among the most pressing and immediate effects of any intervention strategy to reduce crime.
The average number of alcohol-related assaults has fallen by over 20 per cent across the State. A great outcome. And double that, over 40 per cent, in Kings Cross. That is an enormous drop.
The falls in specific time periods impacted by the new laws have been even greater. There are certain hours which were known as dangerous, the “witching hours” between midnight and 6am. Let’s have a look at some of those figures.
Between 1am and 3am there’s been a 27 per cent fall across the State and a 33 per cent fall in Kings Cross. These are significant numbers.
Between 3am and 6am there’s been a 29 per cent fall in New South Wales and a staggering 60 per cent fall in Kings Cross. When I saw those figures I had to pinch myself, to go back to Don Weatherburn and have him confirm these statistics.
In Kings Cross the number of alcohol-related assaults between 3am and 6am now equates to about one per week.
That’s countless numbers of our young people who have been spared from becoming victims of senseless and violent assaults, like the one that took Thomas’ life.
Right now, somewhere in Sydney a family is doing all the things that you’d expect – eating their dinner, watching some television, catching up on their day – the simple things that we all take for granted. Just as Ralph, Kath, Madeleine and Stuart should be doing right now with Thomas.
And while they’ll never know it, that son or daughter is still with us because of what happened to Tom. A life has been saved, and many more spared from injury or trauma.
We are all entitled to go out and expect that we can have a good night at the club, theatre or restaurant, and not be accosted by some antisocial and too often violent drunk that’s intent on spoiling the night for someone else.
It’s not what happens to a community that determines its condition, it’s what that community does in response.
A change of culture was needed, and we all needed to play a role in that change. Every member of the community who wanted to see a difference needed to show their support and add their voice.
I want to thank everyone that’s involved in the Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation for causing us all to do exactly that. It’s amazing and humbling that a family like the Kelly family can emerge from the absolute depths of grief and commit themselves to doing everything in their power to lessen the likelihood that other families will experience what they have.
On a personal note, Ralph Kelly has sat in my office many times. He’s shed a tear, but he’s always been so determined, so passionate and committed to making Thomas’ loss count. It’s quite confronting for a Police Commissioner to be part of that, and to watch a man grieve, and not catch some of that compassion, not feel that commitment bubbling up in yourself.
On behalf of every man and every women on the New South Wales Police Force, let me commend to you the Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation and all that it’s done to change the landscape in this most important area.
Let’s never let this go. Let’s continue to do what we’re doing and make this State the safest in the nation.
Watch Commissioner Scipione’s address at the Take Kare Gala in full