A LOST OPPORTUNITY - 20 Jun 2002
Scott Wilson, Director, Aboriginal Drug and Alcohol Council (SA)
Australia has voted and we have a new Labor administration.
A tragedy of the 2007 election was the relative silence by both major parties in the areas of Indigenous issues and substance abuse across the board. Rewind to June 2007, when Anderson and Wilds report Little children are sacred was released by the NT Government. It attracted immediate attention by both politicians and the media which demanded a range of responses. These responses ignored the underlining basis of the reports recommendations, which were all about community consultation and action.
This report was used by the former Federal government to instigate a range of initiatives that are discussed by others in this issue of Of Substance (see pages 10-13). But we then heard on a daily basis that recognition of Customary Law, having permits for some Aboriginal lands and a range of other conditions were the only reasons we had all this abuse and dysfunction occurring in communities. Finally, a Federal election came and went with no real debate on these or other issues confronting Indigenous people. This was certainly a missed opportunity to address long neglected community and substance misuse problems.
Nationally, there is a complete lack of facilities for Aboriginal people. Facilities that focus on families and programs which support people to achieve the outcomes they want. What services are available are based on models best suited to meet the needs of the organisational deliverer. If an Aboriginal person fails within these systems, it is seen as the fault of the Aboriginal person.
The impact of drugs and alcohol on Indigenous families is huge and unfortunately has been spreading across communities Australia wide. We as community people find it difficult to deal not only with the traumas of constant death and dying, but also a high rate of imprisonment due in part to substance abuse.
A result of some of the useful things that might come out of the NT interventions is that the Australian community at large might finally accept that alcohol is a drug and it should be treated as such. That as part of the health checks in community, assessments for fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and other issues are recorded and addressed. Those people who get caught up in consuming alcohol in dry zones are addressed through the NT Police Diversion Initiative rather than given fines.
However, opportunities were missed in this election cycle and the challenge for all of us is to remind the new government that we need help but we also want to be consulted on what that help might look like.
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