The forum panel:  Chair Chris Hanley, Cr Paul Spooner, mayor Simon Richardson and lawyer Michele Joncourt
The forum panel: Chair Chris Hanley, Cr Paul Spooner, mayor Simon Richardson and lawyer Michele Joncourt

Byron’s social issues revealed by unhappy tourist

THE latest Byron Bay community forum was given a graphic example of the town's mammoth social issues last night when a USA tourist revealed his frightening experiences since arriving a week ago.

Washington commercial fisherman Steve Walters, accompanied by his wife Lisa, told the forum that he had been assaulted twice and also copped a mouth full of abuse since arriving in Byron on his third visit to the area.

Mr Walters said he was abused without provocation by a group of surfers who likely would have assaulted him if not for the intervention of another man.

During another two incidents he was targeted by a 'parkie' who he described as "small, frail, crazy drunk".

"You've got an issue here," he told the forum.

His flight-attendant wife Lisa said she was afraid to walk the streets at night here but in Honolulu, where there were a lot of similarities with Byron, she felt safe.

The couple were now considering selling their Blues Festival tickets and returning home much earlier than they had planned.

"As a visitor to your community, I'd be reticent to come back," Lisa said.

The chair of the fourth community forum this year, Chris Hanley, said he was ashamed at what the tourists had to endure.

A number of speakers said the Walters experiences were a symptom of the region being a magnet for a disproportionately high number of those suffering from mental health issues.

The Byron Bay Liquor Accord chairwoman Hannah Spalding outlined the voluntary measures that came into force last night at member licensed venues to combat alcohol-related violence.

Ideas to tackle the town's problems generated at a world cafe brainstorming session last week were also presented to the forum.

A second round is planned for May 1.

The series of meetings were sparked by widespread anger over anti-social behaviour by tourists during the Christmas New Year period and the ongoing issue of alcohol-related violence in the town.



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