A grieving mother's plea is another desperate "cry in the wilderness" for young people not to binge drink, as it can lead to dangerous road accidents. In some quarters this cry is being heard.
A few years ago Rachael Hutchesson's teenage son died in a fiery smash near Bathurst when he was a passenger in what is alleged to have been a stolen car driven by an unsupervised learner driver. Having been experiencing ''waves and waves of grief'', she was able to speaks out about a toxic cycle of boredom, booze and drugs which is destroying young people in country towns.
She acknowledges her son had had a problem with binge-drinking since he was 13 but he had begun to get his life together; and she wants young people to see her son's death as an example of what drugs and alcohol can do. In the strongest terms, she urges teenagers in rural towns to think before binge-drinking or taking drugs.
I have been privileged over these summer holidays to have been part of a community group that is helping to ensure young people get home safely, yet are still able to go out and have fun.
There were two instances over past New Year periods when he was part of a car pool that arranged to collect young people when they rang, regardless of the time. One phone call came in at 1.30am. I was pleased to get up, quickly dress, get the car and drive to the collection point and see two young people safely and securely home.
This service is recognises as of value to the young people, their friends and the wider community be it in rural or city areas.
Some groups utilise the services of the Red Frogs network, which specialises in chaplaincy activities at Schoolies week (celebrations at the end of high school) and on university campuses. Anyone is able to ring the Red Frogs who will send someone to walk a teenager home safely, or even go around to where a party is being held and check it out.
Other groups of young adults who go out together have a designated non-drinking driver. Some hotels offer free soft drinks to the designated driver, who wears a colourful wrist band. Whatever the system, local people have a community responsibility to ensure those young people's celebrations and revelries do not go over the top.
Lack of responsibility
At the same time, I acknowledge there will inevitably be some young people who have little sense of responsibility to themselves, their friends and no concept of the harm 'terrible things' can have on a community. There is certainly an element of education in this, but there is also an aspect of parental responsibility and an element of social responsibility of those involved in organising functions or hotels and other places that sell alcohol.
There is a new paradigm recognised by young people themselves as to what is 'cool' and what is not 'cool', and increasingly the 'cool' set are setting themselves an agenda that looks after themselves and their friends.
In my lifetime, I have seen the attitudes to smoking turn completely around, to the point where it is no longer advertised, no longer sponsors sports events, and it is considered definitely 'uncool' in many groups to be smoking. He hopes that his children will see a similar turnaround in the attitudes to drinking, despite recent reports of increases in teenagers 'binge drinking'. It is communities and peer group pressure that can help change attitudes of young people, as well as sad stories like those of the Hutchessons'.
'Friends looking after friends' is advocated in the Bible as well. Remember the friendship of Jonathan and David and how Jonathan protected David from his father Saul who sought to kill him.
We might also be reminded of Proverbs 20 verse , which says - "Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise."
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html