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Hospital reports surge in stabbings -

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ELEANOR HALL: The director of the Emergency and Trauma Centre at a major Melbourne hospital says
last weekend was the busiest in his memory when it came to stabbings. There were 13 incidents
involving knives in the city over the weekend, as Alison Caldwell reports from Melbourne.

ALISON CALDWELL: Dr De Villiers Smit is the director of the Emergency and Trauma Centre at the
Alfred Hospital in Melbourne's inner south-east, one of the busiest trauma centres in the country.
He says he won't forget this last weekend.

DE VILLIERS SMIT: I worked this weekend and to the best of my knowledge I can't remember it being
so busy with regards to stabbings

ALISON CALDWELL: According to Ambulance Victoria and Victoria Police, there were 13 incidents over
the weekend involving knives. Most of them were alcohol or drug related and most involved young

DE VILLIERS SMIT: We see quite a variety of injuries. On the weekend specifically we saw some
stabbings to the abdomen and the chest and also to limbs. Clearly for us the stabbings to the chest
and the abdomen would be very severe and potentially life threatening. That doesn't mean that any
stabbing is not potentially life threatening.

ALISON CALDWELL: Victoria Police says there's been a 9 per cent increase in robberies involving
knives over the past year.

Dr De Villiers Smit says the Alfred has seen a massive increase in the numbers of assaults in
recent years.

DE VILLIERS SMIT: Yeah, in general assaults have increased by about 50 per cent in the last couple
of years, even more than 50 per cent. We used to see about 100 to 120 assaults a year. Now we are
way over 150 assaults.

Mostly blunt trauma but the proportion of stabbings have gone up as well.

ALISON CALDWELL: Researchers believe teenagers and young men carry knives as a defence, others
believe they carry them because they think it's cool to do so. Unlike guns, knives are easy to

Victoria Police deputy commissioner Kieran Walshe.

KIERAN WALSHE: Well, it is easy to get hold of a knife and one of the things that we have detected
is that some of these weapons that are being carried are normal household domestic kitchen knives
or steak knives which are very easy to grab from the kitchen as you are leaving the house.

BOB FALCONER: One thing that is very clear is that there are more people out in public places
carrying knives. Our trauma surgeons, the increase in our major hospitals of serious knife wounds
being dealt with.

ALISON CALDWELL: Former police deputy commissioner Bob Falconer says it's time federal and state
governments put money towards a national advertising campaign warning of the dangers of knife

BOB FALCONER: Now we have done this with seat belts. We've done this with drink driving. We've done
it with speeding to a large extent and we are even doing it with smoking which is harmful
behaviour. Why aren't we doing it when our young people are carrying knives?

So I see one brave school principal over the weekend coming out calling it. There has been a growth
in young people carrying knives in the community and of course, that has impacted within our
schools which is a microcosm after all and the trouble is, educators and education bureaucrats have
been in denial on this for some years.

ALISON CALDWELL: The school principal who was brave enough to speak out was Tony Simpson, the
principal of Copperfield College in Melbourne's outer west. Speaking to The Age newspaper on
Saturday he confirmed there was an entrenched culture of denial by schools about what is really
happening. He said principals fear losing enrolments and damaging the image of their school but for
him it was too late in his career to worry about that.

Tony Simpson said all the theories about knives in schools are true but he said social
disconnection was the main reason why teenagers brought knives to school - with less and less
involvement in sports clubs, youth groups and church groups and a crisis in parenting creating
teenagers not connected to anything much.

ELEANOR HALL: That is Alison Caldwell reporting from Melbourne.