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By GEMMA WOLK

A university event has caused concern by promoting excessive drinking.

Autonomy Day, held at Newcastle University on August 7th, is an annual celebration to mark the independence from the University of New South Wales back in 1965. The event officially starts at 6 o’clock in the morning when the university bar ‘Bar on the Hill’ opens.

“Such an early start maximises incentive for young people to continue drinking for an extensive period. This is obviously dangerous, and has the potential to put health at risk” said Doug Quarry, MD.

Not only does the event attract those associated with the University of Newcastle, but in recent years students from elsewhere in the state have started to travel to Newcastle for the celebration.

“I go to up to Newcastle from Sydney every year when Autonomy Day is on. It’s pretty well known, but I wasn’t even sure what it was about until recently. Unfortunately, I think the focus on history and what the day truly represents has been lost and the day now just gives rise for students to party hard” Lauren Swift, Medical Science student at UNSW said.

Fiona Mundie, Activities and Marketing manager of Autonomy day and Licensee of Bar on the Hill admits it is ‘worrying’ that so many students from outside the university seem to look forward to the day and was unaware it had become such a widely recognised celebration.

“I do think it’s sad that the recognition of the event as an independence day for the university has long since been lost in the myths of time, and the focus is now on getting drunk. However, the bottom line is if students can maintain the right attitudes and stay safe, there’s no reason for anything to change… We start so early because we figure it’s safer” she said.

Newcastle Social Profile Report for February 2009 shows that Risk Drinking Behaviour of students is almost at twenty five per cent. This means almost twenty five per cent of the student population is ‘consuming alcohol every day; consuming more than 4 if male or 2 if female standard drinks per day; or consuming 6 if male and 4 if female standard drinks on any occasion or day’, figures that do not need encouragement.

“Autonomy day is a necessary part of the Newcastle Uni lifestyle. We are celebrating being independent which definitely calls for a good time, and a good time calls for goon” Jack Meadows, Radiography student at University of Newcastle said.

Emergency visits for alcohol problems in the Newcastle Local Government Area for 2007 stood at 668 people.

“The union took over organising Autonomy day twelve or thirteen years ago because Auto Day was getting so out of hand. At one stage it had turned into an unruly event that rampaged across the campus” Miss Mundie said.

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