UWS goes out on the town to study nightlife revellers

Researchers from the University of Western Sydney will venture into Sydney's most popular nightspots to measure levels of drinking and observe the behaviours of the patrons of night-time entertainments districts.

Phillip Wadds, a PhD candidate from the Centre for Cultural Research and the School of Social Sciences at UWS, is the Project Manager for the Sydney arm of the 'Patron Offending and Intoxication in the Night Time Entertainment Districts' (POINTED) research project.

"We know that alcohol is a significant problem, which leads to a high number of assaults, injuries and offensive behaviour. What we do not know is how certain types of alcohol and drug consumption influences the levels of risk in the city at night," says Mr Wadds.

"There are certain behaviours that require further investigation. These include the practice of pre-drinking at home or at a cheaper venue before a night out, and the use of energy drinks to extend the length of time that people spend drinking."

Teams of research assistants will conduct the study at popular nightspots in Sydney's Kings Cross, Darling Harbour and Oxford Street, on Friday and Saturday nights between the hours of 10pm and 6am.

Mr Wadds says the teams, which comprise of UWS undergraduate and postgraduate students, will alternate between conducting surveys in busy thoroughfares and observing the behaviours of patrons from within licensed venues.

"The first phase of the study will involve approaching patrons as they enter and leave licensed venues, and asking them to complete a breathalyser test and a short survey," says Mr Wadds.

"The research assistants have undergone extensive training, will be wearing bright, easily identifiable t-shirts, and will be stationed in a pre-determined area that is adequately lit and in the line-of-sight of security personnel."

For the observational component of the project, Mr Wadds says it is important that the research assistants are able to blend into their environment and to be more covert in their data collection.

"In alternate weeks, members of the research team will attend consenting venues and use iPhone and iPod Touch devices to submit hourly reports on what the patrons are drinking, what drinking practices they are employing, and any acts of violence that occur," he says.

"By using the new technologies, it is possible to record accurate data whilst at the same time remaining covert. To the patrons, our researchers will just appear to be texting, which is an extremely common behaviour in licensed venues."

The primary aim of the project is to measure levels of pre-drinking, drinking in venues, intoxication, illicit drug use and harmful drinking practices such as mixing alcohol with energy drinks.

The project will also investigate the effects of license type, trading hours, duration of drinking episodes and geographical location on intoxication, offending, violence and experience of harm.

The POINTED research project will be conducted across the night-time entertainment precincts of five Australian cities. It has been supported by funds from the highly competitive National Drug Law Enforcement Research Fund (NDLERF) scheme. The study's local Chief Investigator, Professor Stephen Tomsen from UWS, was an international pioneer of direct observational research on public drinking and disorder.

While the University of Western Sydney oversees operations in Sydney, the study will also be conducted by Deakin University in Victoria, Curtin University in Perth, and the University of Wollongong in Wollongong.

The research protocol has been approved by the University of Western Sydney Human Research Ethics Committee (EC00314).


9 December 2011

Contact: Danielle Roddick, Senior Media Officer