Geoff Munro, Head of Policy and Advocacy at the Australian Drug Foundation and, right, Mark Stone, also of the ADF, chat with Bass Coast Deputy Mayor, Cr Jordan Crugnale at an ice and other drugs forum in Inverloch last Tuesday night.
YOU won’t see a headline in the newspaper about the fact that drug use in Australia has been declining for years.
And it’s a fact that the number of people smoking, just 15 per cent of the population now, is at its lowest level in history.
According to Geoff Munro, Head of Policy and Advocacy at the Australian Drug Foundation, you won’t see a headline about that either.
Abuse of alcohol has long been our greatest drug problem, he said, killing 5500 people in Australia annually, but it doesn’t get the focus of attention it needs.
The favour of the month, and the year, is ice.
But just because it affects only one per cent of the population, i.e. 250,000 people, doesn’t mean it’s not a problem and with sporting clubs among those most likely to come into contact with ice users and the fallout from ice, it’s important that they develop strategies to deal with it.
That’s why there was a full house at the Inverloch Community Hub last Tuesday night for a ‘Tackle the Issue: ice, alcohol and other drugs forum’.
People from many sporting clubs right across the South Gippsland and Bass Coast regions – the Leongatha Football Club, Meeniyan Football Club, the Alberton Trainers Association, netball, tennis, cricket… they were all there or should have been.
The event, organised by the Australian Drug Foundation, the Good Sports program and GippSport, and sponsored jointly by the Bass Coast and South Gippsland shires, was a big success.
Through guest speakers including Geoff Munro and colleague Cara Munro Steensma, a Senior Youth Alcohol and Other Drugs Advisor with YoDAA (Youth Drug and Alcohol Advice), they got an insight into what they are up against and how they should respond.
Ms Munro Steensma stressed at the end of her talk that while the implications of ice use are severe, help is at hand, whether it’s a youth specific service, counselling, residential withdrawal, community based withdrawal or residential rehab.
She recommended several agencies that can help, her own youth specific service YoDAA at http://yodaa.org.au/ or phone 1800 458 685, the confidential drug and alcohol counselling and referral service Directline www.directline.org.au/ 1800 888 236, Family Drug Support Australia at www.fds.org.au/ and Family Drug Help at http://sharc.org.au.
You can also access information through the Australian Drug Foundation via www.adf.org.au/
Sporting club representatives who attended the night were able to consider how their club would respond, specifically to the ice problem, while also putting it into perspective with their other healthy living initiatives relating to alcohol, road safety, gender equality and other important issues affecting youth and the wider community.
Mum’s plea for ice support
NOT nearly enough is being done in South Gippsland to help ice addicts and their families cope with what is a devastating issue, according to a local mother.
Donna from South Gippsland has a child battling addiction.
She said the nearest support group that is providing the most relevant care is the Drouin-based Ice Meltdown Project.
It’s run by a group of dedicated and caring volunteers, an experienced GP, and mums who’ve found themselves in similar situations.
It receives no government support. Gold coin donations from those who attend and fundraising sausage sizzles provide its only income.
Donna is pushing to open a branch in South Gippsland. She knows there are many people who’d benefit; both addicts and their families.
She just needs a venue, but for that to happen, she has to prove to the South Gippsland Shire Council that there’s enough demand.
“The problem is that a lot of people aren’t coming out to get help because they are too ashamed of what’s happened to them and their family.
“The Ice Meltdown Project is receiving a large volume of calls from addicts and their families who have exhausted all other avenues and have started to lose hope.
“Families and friends are seeking help as they witness the ongoing physical and mental destruction of the person they love.
“If the addict asks for help and is ready for detox, it needs to be readily available and this is achievable.
“Al Anon (alcoholics anonymous) is great, but it’s just about alcohol addiction. Ice is such a different drug.”
Donna said crime rates are on the rise because addicts become desperate to pay for their next hit.
“The reason why we have so many dealers here is that to access the substance, you need to become a dealer to support your own addiction.
“Police are doing what they can and making the arrests, but once the offenders go to court, they’re not following through with their orders.
“They can’t get to Melbourne or the Latrobe Valley for the counselling they’re required to do.
“And because the drug is out of your system in 72 hours, the drug tests come up clear. They get a slap on the wrist and off they go.”
Donna said ice creates a vicious cycle that is torture for parents.
“You work so hard to get your child off the drug, and then someone will offer it for free, just to get them back on again.
“Parents are going nuts because of what they’re seeing happen before their eyes.
“We’re trying to go to work and provide a roof over our heads, and at the same time ensure that our kids are following through on their corrections orders, but it’s impossible.”
Donna said more counsellors, for addicts and family members, needed to be available and based in Leongatha, Korumburra and Wonthaggi.
“We need support groups for parents, families and addicts to help with the detox, mental health issues and the stress.
“People cannot cope with what the addict is putting their family through.
“Sadly, ice is in epidemic proportions and is destroying and killing the people we love and devastating the wider community on an unprecedented level.
“As a community, we must take a stand and tackle this problem here on our own doorstop.
“The knowledge of this problem in the community is very minimal and under-estimated. We need to get on top of this problem as it is not going away.
“I am not asking for financial assistance from local businesses, but help through a short letter to our council to let them know it is affecting us all.
“Unless our local businesses get behind this and admit that they are having staff issues, clientele issues, theft and safety issues, nothing can be done.”
If you’d like to support the cause, Donna can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org
South Gippsland Shire councillor Cr Nigel Hutchinson-Brooks told a well-attended forum on the ice issue in Inverloch last week that the council was planning a major community information and action forum on ice in Leongatha early in the New Year but as yet, no date has been announced for the event.
The council’s director of Community Services, Jan Martin, said that while work had begun to secure relevant speakers, the date has not yet been set.
She said the shire was aiming to have it in February or March at the latest, depending on the availability of speakers.
South Gippsland Shire Council was a co-sponsor of the Inverloch forum, with Bass Coast.