March 8, 2018

Alcohol education: building a Smart Generation in Knox

Josh Hill and Jack Moses student from Saint Joseph's who were part of the Smart Generation program.

Knox Local Drug Action Team uses the Communities That Care platform to deliver a Smart Generation with evidence-based alcohol education.

The City of Knox is home to 160,000 people in Melbourne’s east. The council is focused on creating healthy, connected communities through range of interesting projects. Incorporating the Communities That Care (CTC) program platform, the Knox City Council and EACH have partnered with more than 20 other organisations to form a Local Drug Action Team (LDAT) to reduce alcohol harms with a focus on young people.

At a recent forum hosted by the City of Knox, Deborah Cocks the Coordinator of the Knox LDAT said that the LDAT program has provided a really good partnership platform to implement a range of activities.

“One of our key programs is the Smart Generation strategy,” says Deborah.

“It’s a multilevel program, that works with schools as well as working in the community.”

“The school provides lesson plans for the students in years six, eight, nine and 10 [with a] focus on delivering … key messages on the National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines around alcohol.”

Smart Generation in Knox

As well as monitoring alcohol retail sales to underage people, the Smart Generation program has an in-school, peer-led alcohol education component.

“The students teach each other about the issues around drinking, the effects on the teenage brain and the damage it can do.”

“Then they hold an event where they provide this information to their parents and really use it as an opportunity for their parents to set rules,” said Deborah.

Knox currently has three schools taking part in Smart Generation. One of which is Saint Joseph’s College.

Saint Joseph’s was represented at the forum by Tom Murphy. A teacher and Smart Generation coordinator at the school, Tom spoke on how the school delivers the program to year 9 students.

Teachers nominate students who apply to be leaders and participate in an information session run by Deakin University, said Tom. This is presented by academics and incorporates a non-judgemental question-and-answer session. Armed with this knowledge, student leaders then run their own series of workshops and awareness-raising activities for their peers – culminating in an event involving parents.

It’s the students who make it work

The most important part of Smart Generation is the young people involved. It’s the students who really make the program work.

“[The students] really drive it,” says Tom.

“I think their peers are more likely to respond to someone in the same situation as them. I’ve heard so many parents say: ‘But if I told him to do that, he wouldn’t do it!’”

“These guys make it more engaging for the boys. It has a real big impact on them.”

It’s certainly had an impact on Josh Hill and Jack Moses who are now in year 11 at Saint Joseph’s and were leaders in Smart Generation when they were in year 9.

Knox civic centre

Jack says they got involved for personal reasons.

“[I was] going to parties and seeing what’s happening in the area. It’s not frightening, but confronting seeing how some people are treating alcohol and using alcohol to try and have fun,” said Jack.

The boys saw their peers binge drinking to the point where they couldn’t stand. They say Smart Generation is helping to reduce this happening.

“At first, … when you say you’re doing Smart Generation [your mates] kind of had a laugh at it, [they] thought it was a joke and didn’t take it seriously,” said Josh.

“Until you had the workshops and showed them the facts.”

Jack and Josh say that Smart Generation is a powerful tool because it’s the young people themselves presenting information.

“It’s us getting involved. Instead of just being adults showing the facts and doing the workshops, it’s the teenagers talking to their [peers] about the dangers,” Josh says.

Jack says that if the information came from teachers or adults, it probably wouldn’t resonate.

“There wouldn’t be so much listening, there’d be more joking. But coming from their peers, they listen to it a lot more.”

A really exciting project

Using Smart Generation to reduce underage drinking seems to be working. Indicators such as alcohol-related hospital admissions among 15-24-year-olds have been dropping over recent years.

Professor John Toumbourou, Chair in Health Psychology at Deakin University and CEO of CTC, says the Smart Generation program has been received really well by young people in Knox.

“It’s given them a chance to talk to their peers about the national guidelines which suggest that young people are much better off if they don’t drink until 18,” Professor Toumbourou says.

“Young people can convey it in such a nice, succinct way that cuts through for their peers. As a result of that, we think it’s going really well. The program is very effective here in Knox. It’s a really exciting project.”


To find out more about the LDAT program please visit our Community Hub site.