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Excessive drinking still a taboo subject

July 5, 2018

Long-time boys' advocate Richard Aston says the "work hard, play hard" culture of excessive drinking identified at law firm Russell McVeagh is pervasive in New Zealand. And it's wrecked countless lives over many generations.

"Good on Russell McVeagh for publicly fronting into an issue that is, quite frankly, almost taboo in this country," says Richard Aston, who was CEO of fatherless boys mentoring organization Big Buddy for 15 years and co-authored Our Boys - Raising Strong, Happy Sons from Boyhood to Manhood [Allen & Unwin, 2016].

"That drinking culture cuts through industry and sport; even some of our pre-imminent writers and artists were renowned for their legendary drinking. For some obscure reason, damaged people who drink to excess are revered in New Zealand - even as the people in their lives clean up the trails of destruction they leave in their wake."

Dame Margaret Bazely's 89-page report into sexual harassment allegations at Russell McVeagh is a wakeup call for other organizations, says Our Boys co-author Ruth Kerr.

"No-one wants to be the first corporate killjoy who says 'excessive drinking is ripping lives apart. It stops here.' So, good for them. My hope is that other companies take a really good look at Dame Bazely's recommendations and start implementing them - today."

Richard Aston says New Zealand has always been a heavy drinking nation that equates booze with fun. "The 'work hard, play hard' culture migrated here with our forefathers and continues to be glamorized."

"The problem is, it's all bloody good fun until it turns to custard and someone gets hurt - often young women. And young men's lives are destroyed by their actions too. It's a lose-lose situation."

While the authors accept young people will rollercoaster through hormonal surges and go through waves of experimentation (as they did) they advise parents to know who their teens are mixing with and what substances they are taking.

"Be across it. It's okay to expect some emotional intelligence from the most grunty of teens. We need to help them understand their vulnerabilities," says Richard Aston. "That's our job."

"Our advice is to have family meals and talk, talk, talk. Even when you think they aren't listening, they are taking it in. And because their brains are still developing they are really elastic and they are receptive to both bad and good information. Give them good info. Raise aware men."


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