Paradigm Shift: Australian Drinking Culture in the Workplace

Australia has a long-standing love affair with alcohol, stemming back as far as settlement and The Rum Rebellion. In Under the Influence: A History of Alcohol in Australia,[1] Ross Fitzgerald and Trevor Jordan consider the current historical implications for contemporary society, as well as recent paradigm shifts to substance and alcohol issues and treatments. And, if there has indeed been a paradigm shift as Fitzgerald and Jordan state, what then, are the implications for the Australian workplace and for industry?

Ames and James maintain that “the workplace, as a distinct cultural environment within the larger community, can support or inhibit the development of problem drinking among workers. An understanding of workplace cultural factors is essential for minimising risks of drinking problems among workers”[2] This view forms the basis of the new paradigm, replacing the outmoded “disease model” and focusing more heavily on complex public and industry health strategies that broaden out the criteria of problem drinking  to include the work related drinking culture as a major factor.

Workplace Culture:  The New Model

CMM Technology keeps abreast of these new innovations and offers consultation services that match the new Workplace Culture[3]/Workplace development approach. The key to this new model is the consideration “of a number of key factors pertaining to individuals, the organisation within which they operate and the systems that surround them.”[4] It embraces not only the individual, but also the systemic issues extending beyond the problem drinker and drug user, incorporating detailed consideration of a web of interacting issues that contribute to the problem. In short, the approach is multi-faceted and intricate, and an essential part of any industry or business’s alcohol and drug management program.

Workplace norms and sub-cultural values that underpin the workplace culture are considered, and where required a program of strategies is implemented, challenging the normative drinking behaviours that are now interacting unhealthily with the overall organizational culture of the workplace. Drug and alcohol testing may of course be a component of this program template.[5]

Call CMM Technology on 08 9204 2500 for expert advice on systemic approaches to drug and alcohol issues in the workplace.


[1] Under the Influence: A History of Alcohol in Australia, Ross Fitzgerald and Trevor L. Jordan. Publisher: HarperCollins (ABC Books) 325pp, 2009.

[2] Ames GM & Janes C 1992. A cultural approach to conceptualizing alcohol and the

workplace. Alcohol Health & Research World 16 (2):112–9.

[3] Pidd, K, Berry JG, Harrison JE, Roche AM, Driscoll TR, Newson RS. 2006. Alcohol and

work: patterns of use, workplace culture and safety. Injury Research and Statistics Series

Number 28. (AIHW cat no. INJCAT 82) Adelaide: AIHW

[4] Skinner N, Freeman T, Shoobridge J & Roche AM 2003. Workforce development and the

alcohol and other drugs field: A literature review of key issues for the NGO sector.

Adelaide: National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction (NCETA), Flinders

University of South Australia. (p.5).

[5] Trice HM & Sonnenstuhl WJ 1990. On the construction of drinking norms in work organizations. Journal of Studies on Alcohol 51 (3):201–20.

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