Wingman essential company

ORANGE City Council is hoping to tackle rising alcohol-related violence with a new $50,000 program funded by the state government.

The Look After Your Mates – Wingman program was launched at the Hotel Orange on Wednesday night.

The state-first initiative, based on the designated driver program, targets males aged 18 to 35, encouraging one member of a social group – the wingman – to stay sober on a night out to help keep friends safe.

Posters, coasters, bar mats and other promotional material have been distributed to 15 licensed premises in Orange involved in the program.

The program’s co-ordinator, Orange City Council’s Lynda Bowtell, said the launch was brought forward to coincide with Australia Day and the picnic races.

“We hope people will have some fun with it and create more community responsibility,” she said.

She believes the 12-week program has “huge potential” with a target to reduce alcohol-related violence in Orange by 25 per cent.

A Facebook page has been established as part of the program to encourage participants to get involved and create social media interest.

Orange councillor Glenn Taylor said the “commonsense” program was particularly relevant after major events such as sporting competitions.

“They might partake in a bit too much to drink and they find themselves in a provocative situation getting boisterous or aggressive,” he said.

“If they see their friends in that situation they should try to defuse the situation. Everyone’s a winner if that occurs.”

Cr Taylor said alcohol-related violence was “a serious issue” and caused unnecessary medical costs, police time, court costs and ongoing grief for families involved.

“It is a problem but it’s not unique to Orange,” he said.

Cr Taylor said the council was grateful for support from state member for Orange Andrew Gee and the Orange Liquor Accord.

Ms Bowtell and Cr Taylor both hope to see the initiative adopted by other local government areas if it is successful in Orange.


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