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Monday, 23 May 2005
Page: 139

Mrs MAY (9:23 PM) —Mr Speaker, on the Gold Coast the word ‘mirikai’ has a local Aboriginal meaning: it means ‘a place of peace’. The name is very apt as Mirikai is a specialist alcohol and other drug treatment program that works on a therapeutic community model. Its goal is to enhance the capacity and commitment of clients to achieve, as well as maintain, an optimal level of personal and social functioning free from harmful drug use. And achieve they do. The dedicated staff and volunteers at Mirikai led by Mary Alcorn achieve outstanding results with their clients.

I was privileged last week to attend a graduation ceremony where more than 100 clients graduated from the Mirikai residential program or drug court program and were moving into their next phase of independent living. It was an exciting night for all involved. Challenging milestones had been reached by the clients, and they were supported and recognised for their achievements by their families and friends as well as by the staff and volunteers who assisted them through their individual journeys. It was a night of tears and hugs.

The Gold Coast Drug Council had its beginnings as a voluntary organisation known as the Drug Referral Centre. It was established in 1971 as the first drug and alcohol service on the Gold Coast. In 1981, land was granted by the Gold Coast City Council at 191 West Burleigh Road to establish a centre for education, prevention, assessment, referral and detoxification. This place was called Mirikai or ‘a place of peace’.

In the 1980s, the Gold Coast Drug Council focused on developing professional standards for treatment and education and in 1987 adopted a therapeutic community approach to treatment services for young people. Since that time, the organisation has developed community services which assist young people and their families. These services include residential services and a wide range of out-client services supported by both state and federal funding.

In fact, in the last 12 months, the federal government has supported Mirikai with two grants to assist with their programs. I would like to report to the parliament that these funds have been well utilised and support the prevention, early intervention and specialised treatment in order to minimise the harm related to the use of licit and illicit drugs within the Gold Coast region. In the recent budget, the Howard government committed $21.8 million in new funding for programs to help young people say no to illegal drugs and to provide more treatment and rehabilitation to drug users. There is $0.85 million for the national illicit drugs campaign and another $12 million for the Non Government Organisation Treatment Grants Program over two years from 2006-07. The additional funding for the Non Government Organisation Treatment Grants Program is a firm commitment from the government to ensure that existing treatment services can continue to operate after the current contracts end in June 2006. I will certainly be supporting Mirikai in seeking further funding to continue their valuable services on the Gold Coast.

My evening last week with these graduates, their families, their friends and the staff and volunteers of Mirikai will not be an evening I will forget in a hurry. The programs these graduates have been through have tested them. Graduation means that these young people have completed all phases and stages of their relevant program, and many of them have now moved into a halfway house—a huge stepping stone before they begin independent living. For some graduates the program took six months; for others it took 12 months; but each of them has been confronted and challenged, and each has given up many behaviours that no longer suit the lifestyle they have now chosen. For many, learning the discipline of getting up at six o’clock in the morning was a real challenge.

Most residents of Mirikai complete a residential program that focuses on anger management, anxiety groups, goal setting, communication skills, health lectures, relapse prevention, drama and art, group therapy, individual counselling and assertion training. On the evening of the graduation, students performed for guests. It was a lively and sometimes sad performance. It took the audience through the journey of an addict: the many highs and lows, the anger, the isolation and loneliness, and the ultimate celebration of the graduation. It was a gutsy performance full of emotion that gave each of us a better understanding of the journey these young people have made.

There is not the time here tonight to name all the graduates, but to each of them I wish them well for the future and thank them for their hugs and their stories the other night. To their families who have also travelled the journey and found their loved one again, they are to be thanked for sticking around and giving these people the strength and love they needed to complete the journey. To Sean Cousins, thank you for the time you spent with me; thank you for answering my questions and being patient about my learning. To Mary Alcorn and your support team, keep up the great work. You have my full support for the future.

Question agreed to.