As part of its commitment to provide high level advice to government, the Australian National Council on Drugs (ANCD)—which is the principal advisory body to government on drug and alcohol issues—established the National Indigenous Drug and Alcohol Committee (NIDAC) in late 2004 to specifically identify the most appropriate and effective approach for the ANCD to contribute to addressing Indigenous drug and alcohol issues within Australia.
NIDAC comprises a range of members from non-government and government organisations with specialist expertise and broad experience in dealing with Indigenous drug and alcohol issues.
At its May 2007 meetings in the Northern Territory, NIDAC discussed the following issues:
Kava issues in the Northern Territory Top End communities
Local community concerns were raised about the increased use of kava amongst Indigenous people in the Northern Territory since the Kava Management Act was implemented in 2004. As a result, NIDAC resolved to contact the Northern Territory Government to obtain copies of any information it has collected on the impacts and implications of the Kava Management legislation for Top End communities.
Availability of alcohol in Alice Springs
NIDAC was advised that the extremely high levels of consumption and supply of alcohol in Alice Springs is an issue for all in the Alice Springs community. The sales of alcohol to intoxicated people, price discounting, the disproportionate number of liquor outlets, the sale of alcohol on credit and the holding of people’s bank cards to secure payment, made alcohol easily accessible to Indigenous people and deters attempts by the Alice Springs community to address alcohol abuse. NIDAC supports the Northern Territory Liquor Licensing Commission in targeting irresponsible liquor sales, but adds that the rationalisation of liquor sales and initiatives to promote responsible drinking amongst Indigenous youth and families are much needed.
Postscript: The decision of the Alice Springs Council to declare the town ‘dry’ is of concern to NIDAC due to local Indigenous community advice that increased alcohol consumption and related problems of violence may be displaced to the family home and town camps.
Australian Government Initiatives in Central Australia
As addressing petrol sniffing in Indigenous communities is a priority for NIDAC it was pleasing to hear that the Australian Government rollout of subsidised OPAL unleaded fuel in remote communities has had a significant impact on the prevalence of petrol sniffing in over 60 communities in Central Australia. This result provides a unique window of opportunity to implement youth development programs and activities to engage youth at risk to establish a non-sniffing culture.
NIDAC has welcomed the Australian Government funding of $12million over 3 years towards Indigenous youth services across 4 Central Australian communities. NIDAC also congratulated Mission Australia as the successful tenderer and their commitment to consulting and working with local communities. NIDAC also recognises that funding for prevention and intervention initiatives must be a long term investment to provide a secure future for Indigenous youth.
Transfer of knowledge to alcohol and drug services in remote areas
NIDAC discussed the importance of services operating in Indigenous communities having current information on available best practices as well as government and philanthropic initiatives. Funding bodies also need to be aware that services in remote areas of the Northern Territory have limited communication means and resources to access information that would enhance their services. NIDAC resolved to investigate options that could assist services to access information in a better and timelier manner.
The importance of family in Indigenous culture when treating alcohol and drug problems
Indigenous community representatives advised that treatment for alcohol and drug problems for an Indigenous person cannot be separated from family, therefore it is important for services to recognise the family as a core component in the treatment and rehabilitation of a client. Alcohol and drug services in the Northern Territory recognise that services also need to be structured to take into account the needs of women undergoing treatment, to have their children with them and that alcohol and drug abuse may occur in family generations necessitating the need to involve family in the treatment and rehabilitation of a client. NIDAC is supportive of a family approach to the treatment of alcohol and drug abuse for Indigenous clients.
The development of a local workforce and local solutions to address alcohol and drug abuse in Indigenous communities
NIDAC was advised that community based treatment and rehabilitation is a preferred solution for remote Indigenous communities. Communities require assistance to develop and skill their local workforce, for resources and infrastructure to provide a locally based service for community members who want to address their alcohol and drug abuse and for those who have received treatment and need after care support. Community based treatment and rehabilitation managed by local workers allows an individual to remain with family and support systems within the community and receive treatment. NIDAC will work with government to assist communities through the National Illicit Drugs Strategy—Indigenous Communities Initiative.
Aftercare issues for Indigenous clients who have received treatment
NIDAC was informed that after care treatment and support for Indigenous people who have received treatment for alcohol and drug abuse, particularly in areas where there are no health or alcohol and drug services, was essential for treatment to be fully effective.
After care and support is needed for Indigenous people returning to the community who have been incarcerated and/or received treatment for alcohol and drug abuse. Families also need support and advice on how to manage and care for a family member who has received treatment. NIDAC recognises that after care is a national issue for treatment and rehabilitation and will work with governments to ensure that treatment includes after care support for Indigenous clients and families.
Reduction in paint sniffing “chroming” in Alice Springs
A Northern Territory initiative to introduce a voluntary code of conduct for retailers of solvents and a kit designed to help retailers sell volatile substances in a responsible manner has been a successful solution in combating paint sniffing “chroming” in Alice Springs. NIDAC congratulates the Central Australian Youth Link-Up Service, Tangentyere Council and other organisations such as the Alice Springs Town Council and the NT Chamber of Commerce who were instrumental in the development of the kit, and also to retailers which have supported the approach through the responsible sale of solvents.
Members were informed that the next meeting will be held in Broome on the 2nd of August 2007. Consultation forums will be held on 1st August in Broome.
More information on the NIDAC and the ANCD is available by accessing the ANCD website: www.ancd.org.au or by contacting the NIDAC Secretariat: PO Box 1552 Canberra ACT 2601 P 02 62791650 or F 02 62791610.
Postscript—2007 Australian Government Budget
NIDAC welcomed the commitment by the Australian Government to increase the funding for the National Illicit Drug Strategy—Indigenous Communities initiative to a total of $14.6 m over the next 4 years. The focus on assisting communities to develop and implement local solutions to address drug and alcohol abuse needs to be sustained and supported by alcohol and drug services.
NIDAC will continue to work with government to enhance the resources available for Indigenous alcohol and drug treatment services.