The long reaction against the wowser: The prehistory of alcohol deregulation in Australia

Room, Robin
June 2010
Health Sociology Review;Jun2010, Vol. 19 Issue 2, p151
Academic Journal
The cultural and historical background of the substantial deregulation of alcohol sales in Australia in the last quarter century is described and discussed. Drinking and intoxication was contested ground in Australian history, stereotypically split between the heavy-drinking male world of primary industries and the more feminine world of the suburb. In the temperance era of the late 19th and early 20th century, restrictions on alcohol sales gained ground, epitomised by six o'clock closing adopted during World War I. Alcohol's cultural position shifted after World War II: alcohol problems were redefined in terms of alcoholism, a personal failing, and a cultural–political movement led by the Sydney Bulletin led a successful cultural–political movement to caricature and derogate ‘wowsers’. Meanwhile, the alcohol industry moved to identify itself with high-valued features of Australian life. By the 1960s, a dynamic of relaxation of alcohol controls had started, starting with repeal of six o'clock closing and continuing to the present day.


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