Helping migrants cope with alcohol abuse

By Our Reporter
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Allied health specialist Ruchika Rawat on why more awareness is needed about alcohol and drug related issues within the Indian community

Scoping work conducted by the Alcohol and Drug Foundation (ADF) in 2016-2017 identified the Indian community living in Melbourne as one of the priority groups for exploring alcohol-related community perspectives and related harms. The result was a report on exploring community perspectives on alcohol use and related harms in the Indian community in Melbourne.

Secretary of CAA, Ruchika Rawat, was one of key people who worked on the report. As the driver of CAA’s mission of empowering communities, Ruchika focuses on areas such as preventive and health promotion, project planning, implementation, and monitoring. Rawat, who was a physiotherapist for nine years with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, India, before migrating to Australia and becoming a member of Community Voice Panel for Maribyrnong City Council, Victoria, says she knew that her background in allied health would help bring more direction to this first of a kind study on the Indian Australian population in Melbourne. Earlier reports have shown that between 2011 and 2016, India ranked second in the list of people born overseas in Victoria, an increase of 58,000 to 117,787. Of these, 95% of the migrants live in Melbourne; and that 60% of this Indian population is between 25 and 44 years.

“This large influx of migrants has not been without issues associated with settling in a new country, a new culture and adjusting to working in Australia,” says Ruchika, who works for the rehabilitation team at Barwon Health for Victorian Public Health Services besides managing her private business “Roo and Joey” for Mum and Bub fashion.

“I have always been interested in community engagement, preventive and health promotion. So, when I came across this research opportunity for ADF, I couldn’t say no,” says Ruchika, who inspired The Women’s Business School, Australia to start Multicultural Business Award being after she became one of the finalists for the AusMumpreneur Sustainability Award 2017.

The report, she says, indicates that there is definitely perceived increase in alcohol consumption since migrating from India to Australia with increase in both daily and habitual drinking and incidents of binge drinking at social events.

“Men tend to drink more frequently and at higher levels, compared with women. In addition, men are more likely than women to drink at risky levels,” she says.

The report also found that an increasing number of women, particularly in the younger age bracket, are engaging in light to moderate drinking. “This increase is being seen as an expression of freedom and becoming part of the Australian community. However, it must be noted that more women compared with men abstain from drinking alcohol at all.”

Overall, the data showed that there is minimal understanding of safe drinking levels and what a standard drink is, except for a few younger participants who had worked in hospitality sector and thus were aware of the requirements for RSA—Responsible serving of alcohol.

Focus group data revealed that some members were aware of BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) limit for driving but still choose to drive. There is a perception of increased risky drinking behaviours.

“We also found notable barriers in seeking formal and/or informal help because of perceived social stigma, reluctance to seek help from mainstream services because of their lack of understanding of Indian cultural norms and little awareness of alcohol support services in Melbourne,” says Ruchika.

Overall, participant knowledge and understanding varied when discussing the risks associated with alcohol but were not limited to over consumption of alcohol contributing to drunken driving, marital problems, addiction, poor performance at work, health problems and family violence. There is limited academic research on CALD communities to have any substantive data to suggest any correlation. Family, domestic and sexual violence is a major health and welfare issue. It occurs across all ages, socioeconomic and demographic groups but mainly affects women and children.

“The latest data available to Australian Institute of Health and Welfare suggest that 1 in 6 women and 1 in 16 men have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by a current or previous partner and this figure changes to 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men for emotional abuse by a current or previous partner,” says Ruchika.

Heralded as a local community champion, Ruchika advocates the cause of gender equality and financial freedom for women and is actively involved in promotion and awareness as a member of the United Nations Women National Committee, Australia.

“The next steps for this project are community awareness raising activities and engagement workshops along with development of and a community action plan and culturally appropriate health resources on alcohol,” she says.

Study insights

‘More Indians drinking since migrating to Aus’

First of its kind of study on the Indian Australian population in Melbourne also finds men are more likely to drink at risky levels. More from the report…

  • Perceived increase in alcohol consumption since migrating from India to Australia
  • Increase in daily and habitual drinking and incidents of binge drinking at social events
  • Men tend to drink more frequently and at higher levels, compared with women. In addition, men are more likely than women to drink at risky levels
  • Minimal understanding of safe drinking levels and what a standard drink is, except for a few younger participants who had worked in hospitality sector
  • Some aware of Blood Alcohol Content limit for driving but still choose to drive. There is a perception of increased risky drinking behaviours.

The report on exploring community perspectives on alcohol use and related harms in the Indian community in Melbourne was written by Associate Professor Deborah Warr

 

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