26 October 2005
The National Indigenous Drug and Alcohol Committee (NIDAC) of the Australian National Council on Drugs (ANCD) has determined that it will hold an alcohol and other drug (AOD) agency forum in conjunction with its meetings. These forums will focus on Indigenous AOD issues. Through these forums the NIDAC is able to ensure that the views of a range of stakeholders (e.g. Indigenous organisations, non-government organisations etc) that deal with Indigenous AOD issues are considered as part of drug policy advice.
The NIDAC produces a report from each forum which aims to provide a brief description of the issues raised by forum participants. These reports are made available on the ANCD’s internet site to enable forum participants and interested others to access the issues that were discussed. The NIDAC also provides a copy of each report to the ANCD, as well as the Premier or Chief Minister and the Minister/s responsible for AOD and Indigenous issues in each jurisdiction, to ensure that the Government is aware of the issues that were raised.
It should also be noted that the issues raised at the forums are not necessarily areas that the NIDAC agrees with or is able to address. They do however provide NIDAC members with an important insight into community concerns and perceptions about specific AOD issues. In addition, the NIDAC believes that it has an obligation to participants to report the issues and concerns raised in an unfettered manner.
Approximately 40 people from Adelaide and the surrounding area participated in the NIDAC’s AOD agency forum, which was held at the Stamford Grand, Adelaide, on 26 October 2005. The forum participants included representatives from a range of Indigenous and non-Indigenous non-government organisations and South Australian Government departments.
NIDAC’s Acting Chairs, Ms Coralie Ober and Mr Scott Wilson, officially welcomed participants to the forum, explained its purpose, and then introduced the Executive Officer of the ANCD, Mr Gino Vumbaca.
Mr Vumbaca gave a brief presentation that:
At the conclusion of his presentation Mr Vumbaca opened the floor for questions and/or comments about current and emerging AOD issues in Adelaide and the surrounding area, with NIDAC members responding where possible. The following issues were raised:
1. Statistics on Indigenous health
The current trend when reporting statistics on Indigenous health appears to be that the Indigenous population is compared against the whole Australian population. It was suggested that it might be insightful to compare equivalent sub-groups in each population to see what differences, if any, are apparent e.g. urban Indigenous unemployed versus urban non-Indigenous unemployed. The forum also heard that in comparison with the overall Australian population there is a need for a more coordinated process for collecting Indigenous AOD information to ensure that there is better quality data available to a range of stakeholders.
2. Treatment services for Indigenous people
The forum discussed the value and important role of various types of treatment in addressing AOD issues. Participants acknowledged that there must be a range of treatment options available to Indigenous people to ensure that they have the best chance to overcome the AOD issues that they experience. There was a discussion about the effectiveness of abstinence based programs for Indigenous clients. As a result, there was a request for information on how many abstinence based programs exist in South Australia for Indigenous people.
3. Funding submission processes
Forum participants commented that funding submission processes are onerous, especially in smaller organisations, and it detracts from their ability to perform their core business. Participants were of the opinion that there must be some way to make these processes more efficient and effective for the organisations writing the submissions and for the people that have to assess them.
4. Petrol sniffing
Forum participants commented that petrol sniffing is a significant problem in some Indigenous communities e.g. those in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara (AP) Lands. Questions were asked about the types of treatment programs that are available for people in this region. Participants also wanted to know what progress has been made in addressing the issue of petrol sniffing in Indigenous communities in the AP Lands.
The issue of tobacco smoking in Indigenous communities was recognised as a significant health problem and participants sought information about the amount of money that the Australian Government has allocated to address this issue. Participants noted that the Australian Government held a workshop in regard to this issue earlier this year but it did not appear that any practical outcomes have resulted from the meeting. It was also suggested that in order to address the problem more effectively there needs to be increased training of Indigenous AOD Tobacco Workers.
6. Incarceration versus diversion
Forum participants expressed concern about the number of Indigenous people that have been incarcerated. It was suggested that in some circumstances it would be more appropriate to involve these individuals in diversion programs that involve AOD treatment. Participants did however recognise that the rates of diversion for Indigenous people are relatively low and that there needs to be more effort to increase the number of eligible people who participate in this program. Participants noted that in purely economic terms it is more efficient to treat someone rather than incarcerating them but they conceded that it will require a whole-of-government approach to address the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the criminal justice system.
7. Resiliency programs
Forum participants commented that there appears to be very few, if any, resiliency programs for young people.
Forum participants expressed concern that drug induced psychosis and other mental health problems associated with AOD seem to be increasing and this will have a significant impact on the AOD and mental health sectors. Questions were asked about whether there are any clinical guidelines or strategies in place to deal with this situation. Participants were also of the opinion that there needs to be better communication between the AOD and mental health sectors to ensure that they deal with comorbid clients more effectively.
9. Number of Indigenous specific AOD treatment services
Forum participants stated that there seems to be a lack of Indigenous specific treatment services in South Australia e.g. short term residential rehabilitation. It was suggested that there is also a need to increase the capacity of the AOD treatment sector Australia wide so that people have timely access to services.
10. AOD workforce: Recruitment, retention and workforce development
In addition to increasing the capacity of the AOD treatment sector the forum heard that the sector requires more workers. Participants stated that a number of AOD workers leave the sector and take up employment in other sectors because their skills are recognised with significantly higher salaries. Participants were also of the opinion that non-government AOD organisations have very limited funding available for staff to engage in workforce development activities.
11. Needle and Syringe Programs (NSPs) in prisons
Forum participants noted that blood borne viruses continue to be spread in prison environments through activities such as the injection of drugs. Participants therefore suggested that it is necessary to have NSPs in prisons.
12. Injecting drug use and blood borne viruses
Forum participants commented that the transmission of blood borne viruses, e.g. Hepatitis C, in the Indigenous community is primarily through injecting drug use. However, it appears that the majority of the policies designed to address Hepatitis infection come from the sexual health sector rather than the AOD sector.