ABORIGINAL COMMUNITY ACTION GROUP RISES TO CHALLENGE OF ICE, OTHER DRUGS

ABORIGINAL and Torres Strait Islander Traditional Owners and Elders have come together to drive intergenerational responses to the challenge of Ice and other drugs among the Indigenous population of Bundaberg region.

A new Intergenerational Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD) Action Group has been set up, led by Bundaberg’s IWC, as a direct action from the Bundaberg Region Community Ice Forum held on 2 June.

The work of the Action Group also will support the Wide Bay Primary Health Network’s (PHN) Strategic Collaborative Partnership, which is researching AOD within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander environment in Wide Bay. The consultative process being headed by IWC CEO Ara Harathunian, with sits on the PHN Collaborative Partnership.

"This is an exciting step forward, and one that taps into the linear nature of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community,” said Lee Hammond, who facilitated a workshop of local Traditional Owners and Elders on 26 October at the Blue Water Sports Club in Burnett Heads.

"In European society, there tends to be a hierarchical model of decision-making, with someone in charge and others following. In Indigenous Australian communities, it is a much flatter model that is based on respect for all generations within the framework. The Action Group which the workshop decided to set up will reflect this.”

Ms Hammond is an Aboriginal social worker with more than 20 years’ experience in the area of Ice and other drugs and heads the AOD program run by IWC, a non-government, community-run and charitable organisation.

"Using intergenerational knowledge to seek solutions around the issue of methamphetamines and other drugs in our region is culturally appropriate and inclusive. Solutions to major social issues must be driven by community consultation to succeed,” she said.

At the initial workshop, ideas around how to best tackle the issue of Ice and other drugs came thick and fast.

"Sharing knowledge, providing stories of hope, rehabilitation and treatment, and looking at setting up a healing, or recovery, centre have all been put up as options to be explored,” said Ms Hammond. "What was identified clearly as not working was people being judged around AOD, only having services available during office hours, cutting people out of the community – disengagement was seen as a major failing. Plus, the government funding needs to be tailored to the community needs, rather than services having to be shaped in line with strict government funding requirements.”

Key outcomes from the workshop, which drew 14 Bundaberg region Traditional Owners and Elders, included a call to provide training to Action Group members around AOD, Mental Health, peer mentorship and leadership.

"The Action Group will meet on a monthly basis, and other Traditional Owner / Elders who could not make it to the first meeting have expressed strong interest in being part of this exciting and ground-breaking initiative,” said Ms Hammond. "They will work towards building the intergenerational learning capabilities of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through improved family and community connections, and creating both written and visual resources that showcase the positive success stories around AOD – stories of hope.”

Participants in the workshop praised the initiative, saying it was good to work with other Indigenous people from the community who were interested in seeing something done around Ice and other drugs.