Farm workers' drug and alcohol use report released

Author: | Date: 20 Jul 2012

The Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC), with support from the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), has released a report into the use of drugs and alcohol by workers in Australia’s farming and fishing industries.

The report, based on data gathered from grain, sugar, cotton and fishing industry sites in New South Wales and Victoria, was commissioned to raise awareness of the scope of drug and alcohol use by farming and fishing employees and the impact of that use on the workplace and also on rural communities and families.

The study’s lead researcher, Dr Julaine Allan from Charles Sturt University’s Centre for Inland Health, said 43 per cent of those taking part in the study were identified as risky drinkers who consumed large amounts of alcohol frequently.

“Risky drinkers are those who consume more than the two standard drinks a day with two alcohol free days per week, recommended by the National Health and Medical Research Council,” Dr Allan said.

“Around half of those in the study drinking at risky levels had five or six drinks every day, putting them at risk of long term harm.”

The study found that the use of illicit drugs was at much lower levels amongst rural workers when compared to excessive alcohol consumption. Of those studied, 13.7 per cent reported using cannabis and 9 per cent admitted to using amphetamines.

Younger participants typically reported binge drinking (10 or more drinks once or twice a week) at social gatherings whereas older participants reported drinking between five and eight drinks regularly, often daily, at home.

The report is expected to be a useful basis for development of strategies to reduce problematic drug and alcohol use, and support rural employers to maintain and grow their workforce.

No previous studies had comprehensively investigated drug and alcohol use in the rural industries workforce.

The research was conducted by a team from The Lyndon Community, Monash University, The University of Queensland, National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre and Charles Sturt University.

It was funded by the Collaborative Partnership for Farming and Fishing Health and Safety which is managed by RIRDC. Partners include the GRDC, the Fisheries, Sugar and Cotton Research and Development Corporations and the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing.

The report is now on the RIRDC website ( and can be downloaded for free. It is also available in hard copy.

RIRDC is a statutory authority established by the Primary Industries and Energy Research and Development Act 1989 (PIERD Act). The Corporation was established by the Australian Government to work with industry to invest in R&D for a more profitable, sustainable and dynamic rural sector.


Media releases and other media products can be found at

For media interviews: Dr Julaine Allan (via CSU Media)
Phone (02) 6933 2207


Damon Whittock, Public Affairs Manager, RIRDC
Phone (02) 6271 4175

Contact: Sharon Watt, Porter Novelli
Phone 0409 675100

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