Words by Caitlin Trindall.
A little while ago there was a review into the lockout laws in Sydney, and a huge protest in Sydney organised by Keep Sydney Open. There hasn’t been much vocal outrage from the masses since, unfortunately. That’s not to say that there aren’t those who are out there fighting the good fight, and organising events to combat what has been critiqued as the draconian laws placed by the New South Wales Government upon the residents of Sydney and NSW as a greater whole.
These events are being organised by groups such as Keep Sydney Open to show that as a city, we know how to party and do it safely. From fundraisers to rallies to panels of speakers, they are out there doing their thing. What provoked the writing of this this article was attendance at one of those events on Friday night, something to be explored later on. First, here are some facts.
You would have had to have been hiding under a rock to not know the story behind 10:00pm bottle shop closures; 1:30am lock out regulations for clubs and pubs in the Sydney lockout zone within the CBD; 3:00am last drinks; no shots, no doubles, no glassware and anywhere between a 2-4 drink minimum depending on what licensed venue you’re in after midnight.
What really irks those who support a safe and vibrant Sydney is the complete lack of recognition of the actual problem that the NSW government gave to these tragic incidents. This isn’t the first article written about this topic and it will hardly be the last, however let us address some of the truth behind the unprovoked attacks on Daniel Christie and Thomas Kelly. The truth is those men who killed these innocent people, were violent people. In these incidents, a violent person was the cause of death.
Let’s look at the person who killed Daniel Christie. He threatened Daniel with warnings that he was trained in mixed-martial arts and had a violent nature. His violence was told of during the trial over the killing of Daniel. In these past acts of violence, he had assaulted partners and former partners. This person had contravened an apprehended violence order by assaulting a former partner in 2006; he had been arrested and charged for an act of assault against his partner in 2011 outside a nightclub in Sydney; in 2009 he contravened another AVO and in 2011 again, assaulted a female friend. This is not to neglect the reports of his alcohol and substance abuse as it has been stated that he consumed large amounts of alcohol and was a user of ice and cocaine.
There are so many parts of this that we as a society need to focus on, alcohol and substance abuse included, however let’s draw to one very striking factor about his violence. That person was violent against those he deemed weaker than himself. He struck and assaulted women he was in domestic relationships with to show a dominating power, and he killed a young man. He not only killed a young man, but also threatened him with violence beforehand after Daniel Christie had stood up for other young men.
Over the course of five odd years, this man contravened AVOs, assaulted women, perpetrated domestic violence and was allowed to remain on the streets of Sydney to cause hurt to other people. I urge readers to question why such a violent person, who did indeed have drug and alcohol dependence, was allowed to walk the streets after time and time again demonstrating a violent nature.
Why is it that such an act of violence should see an entire state of our country suffer consequences? And why is that harsh laws have been placed on a city due to the failure to address acts of violence and substance abuse in the lead up to a fatal attack on a young man?
Daniel Christie’s death could have been prevented. Not by a 1:30am lock out on a nightclub, and not by a 10:00pm bottle shop closure. It could have been prevented if a man who was due to be apprehended and prosecuted for acts of violence was not on our streets. The stats are there; we know what an issue domestic violence is, with 25% of Australian women having experienced intimate partner violence. Moreover, for a man like the one that killed Daniel Christie with a drug and alcohol problem, the problem is a health issue that was not addressed properly. There is a distinct but still fine line between the criminality and health issues of alcohol and illicit substances. No amount of legislation surrounding the availability of any substance, legal or not, would prevent someone who wants it from getting and consuming it.
Still don’t believe that the focus on violence wasn’t there? The person who killed Thomas Kelly was transferred to a supermax prison only last year after stomping on the head of another inmate. There are violent streaks within these people and I sure as hell don’t buy that killing the creative scene in Sydney is going to stop a person with drug dependencies, someone who abuses alcohol or someone who picks on victims they deem weaker than themselves from being violent.
Back to the Keep Sydney Open movement. Friday night just gone they threw a warehouse party in Redfern organised by Keep Sydney Open and students at the Australian Institute of Music. It was a fun night, the first in installments to come, however there was a lot of irony behind the event. This event was marketed as combatting the laws placed upon our city, and it was no pass outs after 10:00pm and finished at 1:00am. 1:00am, let me remind you is a whole half an hour before the official lockout law time of the CBD.
This is less a reflection of the night but more a reflection of the way in which Sydney’s creative scene is suffering and suffering hard. I congratulate entirely the people behind Friday night’s event, none of the above mentioned took away from the enjoyment of the night and a killer party was delivered. However, my friends and I couldn’t help but discuss the fact that a warehouse party outside of the lockout zone marketed as keeping our city going was due to finish before those in the city were scurrying to get inside their favourite club, that is if their favourite club still exists. I am certain that there are reasons for this, and I’m not looking to shame a very well organised event. Those reasons, undoubtedly, were to do with the landscape of Sydney right now.
The biggest factor of Friday night that should be noted is the fact that all profits made were donated to Lifeline. Meanwhile, The Star casino in Pyrmont continues to operate with a 24-hour license, safely on the outskirts of the lockout zone, allowing people to continue and develop problem gambling habits that ultimately destroy their own mental health and their family homes.
Historical research shows that problem gamblers are four times more likely to develop alcohol problems than non-problem gamblers. If alcohol related issues were really being taken seriously, people wouldn’t be being driven to head to the casino. In fact, the Australian Government has put together a handy guide on problem gambling statistics for us.
The heart of many others and myself is breaking over Sydney’s doomed fate. Artists like What So Not, Nina Las Vegas, Flight Facilities and Alison Wonderland have been heard voicing the fact that the Sydney club scene is what gave them the ability to be where they are now. There is so much talent out there waiting for their big break in a city that is destroying their chances. As it has been said, these big names in Australian dance music weren’t always headline slots. The hard yards were put in by very deserving talent when they played 3:00am sets and hoped that people would stay on to dance.
Sydney is a shadow of it’s former self at this point in time and this isn’t going to be something that can be fixed over night. Those who want to keep fighting for Sydney need to keep fighting. To do that, we need to keep going out and supporting our favourite clubs to ensure that they keep thriving and supporting local talent. To stop heartbreak, the Sydney community needs to rally and voice their outrage at being treated like children. It is all well and good for baby boomers to have the opinion that 1:30am is past our bed times, when they grew up in a world where they could own their own home by 25, stay out at their favourite pub until whenever they felt fit and celebrate a wonderful culture. What isn’t okay is for them to put a dictatorship over the whole of society due to their inability to address problems at the roots.
Daniel Christie and Thomas Kelly were taken too soon; they were failed by a system. That system has tried to cover up their failures with a band-aid. Let’s talk about domestic violence, let’s talk about substance abuse, let’s talk about depression and families that are torn apart. Let’s talk about an industry that is being demeaned by those in white collars, as they continue to have their meals and drinks served by someone trying to earn a bit extra on a Sunday while those drinking these beverages try to take away that person’s penalty rates. Let’s address the fact that the bar manager who so kindly looked after these people on a busy Saturday night can’t buy a bottle of wine when they finish work, because they don’t work that same 9-5 shift as the person they served who is out of touch.
Let’s talk about keeping Sydney open.