Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts.These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
7.30 Report -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

Tonight an the '7.30 Report', the landmark study raising more questions about the powerful drugs
prescribed to thousands of Australian children.

It should end the ADHD debate, we should stop the use of stimulants for ADHD, in children.

People need to be aware there is often a lot of hysteria surrounding ADHD medication that is not
always founded. There's been 158 ranger killed in the last 10 years in one National Park.

The wildlife warrior battling on the front line.

He cares with his whole being, everything cares.

This Program is Live Captioned.

ADHD medication debate reignites

ADHD medication debate reignites

Broadcast: 16/02/2010

Reporter: Mike Sexton

It is estimated that more than 350,000 Australian children and adolescents have ADHD, which is
treated in a variety of ways, including by prescription stimulants, to help children focus and
interact socially. But many people oppose such medication and the debate about the treatment of
ADHD is about to be further stoked with the release of a long-term health study in Western
Australia tomorrow.


KERRY O'BRIEN, PRESENTER: The treatment of attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder has long
been controversial. It's estimated that more than 350,000 Australian children and adolescents have
ADHD, which is treated in a variety of ways, including by prescription stimulants to help children
focus and interact socially.

But there are many who oppose such medication, arguing it's dangerous for children.

This heated debate is about to be further stoked with the release tomorrow of a long-term health
study in Western Australia.

The 7.30 Report has been given exclusive access to the University of Western Australia study that
suggests the use of stimulant medication for children doesn't help them academically while also
harming them physically.

Mike Sexton reports on a case of complex arguments and polarised debate.

MIKE SEXTON, REPORTER: For people with Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder each day is
filled with distractions, interruptions and impulsive behaviour. Specialists believe the condition
affects the part of the brain involving self-control and one way of treating it is by using
stimulants that help the person cut through distractions and focus.

pay attention in the class. University students are able to attend their lectures and focus on the
lecturer as opposed to the 200 children - students being rowdy around them.

MIKE SEXTON: But the benefits of using amphetamines or other stimulants to treat ADHD is disputed.
and leading the charge is a former teacher turned Western Australian Labor MP Martin Whitely.

MARTIN WHITELY, WA LABOR MP: I saw a lot of boys in my classroom that were very heavily medicated
and frankly they were compliant, they were very easy to control, but they weren't switched on to
learning, they weren't interacting with their peers, and that really sort of generated an interest
in the issue.

MIKE SEXTON: Nowhere is the debate over the use of ADHD medication fiercer than in Western
Australia. During the 1990s, medication rates soared, and according to the Medical Journal of
Australia, by 2000 more than 20,000 West Australians were using stimulants, a prescription rate
that ranked amongst the highest in the world. But for the past 20 years in WA, authorities have
conducted one of the most thorough medical surveys in the world that sheds significant new light on
the issue.

LOU LANDAU, UNI. OF WA: The study itself was not designed for ADHD, but at the same time there was
a need to look at the long-term effects of management of ADHD.

MIKE SEXTON: In 1989 almost 3,000 women agreed to be part of research on ultrasound imaging. After
birth the families continued allowing data to be collected. So over two decades, this long-term
health study has amassed information on a generation of West Australians, including those diagnosed
with ADHD, some of whom were medicated and some of whom weren't. The results show those using drugs
did not improve academically.

(male voiceover): "The finding that stimulant medication use increased the odds of below age level
academic achievement by a factor of 10 times strongly suggests that medication may not result in
any long-term academic gains (as rated bay classroom teacher) and at worst, may result in poorer
teacher-rated academic performance."

LOU LANDAU: It tells the doctors that if you're going to use stimulant medication, you do need to
be aware that you need to look at the risks against the benefits. Now we know there are some
short-term impacts which may help the child, but long-term they're not likely to result in
significant improvement.

MIKE SEXTON: In addition to the academic performance, the report suggests long-term health

(male voiceover): "It was found that those who had consistently received medication at all time
points had a significantly higher mean diastolic blood pressure than those who had not consistently
received medication in the past."

LOU LANDAU: Stimulant medication short-term does increase the blood pressure, but of more concern
is the fact that those that had had stimulant medication in the past, even if they weren't
currently having it, still had blood pressures which were even higher.

MIKE SEXTON: The survey conclusions haven't changed the views of those who believe medication is a
legitimate part of the treatment of ADHD.

MICHELLE TONER: It was a parent survey and that's all it was. I think that there are other studies
that have been very carefully controlled that have showed some increases in children's academic
studies, and certainly my own PhD research showed medication a very valuable part of the treatment
- it's not the whole treatment - a very valuable part of the treatment for my university students
with ADHD.

MIKE SEXTON: Michelle Toner is President of a self-help group for those with learning and attention
disorders and sits on a WA ministerial committee on ADHD.

MICHELLE TONER: People need to be aware that there is often a lot of hysteria around ADHD
medications that is not always founded. Children with ADHD are treated by specialists, not GPs;
they have a specialist treating their medication and ADHD medications are very well controlled.

MIKE SEXTON: Martin Whitely sits on the same ministerial committee as Michelle Toner, but disagrees
strongly with her views.

MARTIN WHITELY: It should end the ADHD debate. We should stop the use of stimulants for ADHD in
children. But it won't, because frankly there's too many powerful vested interests that'll continue
to push it.

GRAHAM JACOBS, WA MINISTER FOR MENTAL HEALTH: I would not say that we ban all medication for ADHD.
I think it can be an important contribution to the treatment, but this study shows some of the
consequences and that makes us aware.

MIKE SEXTON: Martin Whitely believes the results in the west should be noted by the Federal
Government, because currently there are no national guidelines for the use of drugs in treating
ADHD. Late last year a set of new draft guidelines was released by Health Minister Nicola Roxon,
but they are yet to be approved because they relied heavily on studies conducted by American child
psychologist Joseph Biederman, who's currently under investigation for alleged conflict of interest
after reportedly receiving more than $2 million from drug companies.

MARTIN WHITELY: Governments, when they have concerns about ADHD over-prescribing and misdiagnosis,
they go back for advice to the ADHD industry, the very people that have actually led to the problem
in the first place. And Nicola Roxon has made the same mistake that Tony Abbott made when he was
Health Minister. They need to stop talking to the ADHD industry, they need to start talking to
people that don't have a pre-determined position on the issue.

MIKE SEXTON: While there's been no comment today from the Federal Health Minister, Western
Australia's Minister for Mental Health says the study is contributing to a change in thinking.

GRAHAM JACOBS: It's my intention to submit this report to the federal minister. I think there are
some things to learn from us nationally about policy moving forward in the prescription of
medication to ADHD. I think it's an important work.

MIKE SEXTON: Professor Lou Landau concedes the data won't end the debate, but sees it as vital
information for parents and doctors deciding how to treat children.

LOU LANDAU: Their decision will now be made with better information as to the benefits and the
risks, and so will help in making the right decision for that child.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Mike Sexton with that report.

Is bullying in schools on the rise?

Is bullying in schools on the rise?

Broadcast: 16/02/2010

Reporter: Kerry O'Brien

The stabbing death of a 12-year-old Brisbane school boy by a fellow student has prompted calls for
greater security within schools amid claims that teen violence is on the rise. Melbourne
psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg is an internationally recognised authority on teenage behaviour,
an author of several books on parenting, and a consultant psychologist to many schools around the
country. He speaks with Kerry O'Brien from Melbourne.


KERRY O'BRIEN, PRESENTER: Two tragedies unfolded in a Brisbane schoolground early yesterday: one
life lost, another life ruined. A Year Eight student was stabbed to death, and as a senior police
officer said, you can't imagine what it would be like to send your 12-year-old boy to school for
him never to return.

The second tragedy revolves around the 13-year-old boy who allegedly did the stabbing and is in now
custody charged with murder. The court will determine the consequences surrounding the death, but
other students at St Patrick's College in northern Brisbane are quoted as saying the alleged
offender had been a victim of bullying and had brought the knife to school to scare his tormentors.

The public reaction has included claims that violence in the playground is on the increase in
Australia, and calls for greater security within schools, including even metal detectors.

There have been various studies into bullying and playground violence, and while it may still be
arguable about whether it's on the increase or not, what is clear is that it certainly is not

One person who has more insight than most into this issue is adolescent mental health specialist Dr
Michael Carr-Gregg. The Melbourne psychologist is an internationally-recognised authority on
teenage behaviour, an author of several books on parenting and a consultant psychologist to many
schools around the country. He joins me now from our Melbourne studio.

Michael Carr-Gregg, you've been consulting on, analysing and cataloguing adolescent behaviour,
including bullying, for a long time now. Without directing any comments to the case in Brisbane,
because of course we don't know the details; you've heard the unfolding debate today with calls for
increased school security and so on. What's your broad response?

MICHAEL CARR-GREGG, ADOLESCENT PSYCHOLOGIST: My broad response is that I think that when an
incident like this happens, it shatters everybody's understanding of schools as being safe places.
I think we have to put this in context. This is a very rare incident. And if we live perhaps in
North America this might be something that happens weekly or maybe even fortnightly. This is rare;
it doesn't always happen in this country. What we have to recognise though is that there is a
broader problem of bullying and harassment in schools. In 1990, we knew that the figures were about
one in six. Ken Rigby's research suggested that. In 2005, Gene Healy from the University of Western
Sydney said it was about one in five. And Professor Donna Cross's report in 2009 was that it's one
in four. So it's definitely there and it would appear on the surface to be getting worse.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Now why? The big question: why?

MICHAEL CARR-GREGG: Well I think there's been a comprehensive failure of schools, parents and
society to tackle this. And I have to be really honest with you, I'm actually quite frustrated. On
the 10th February, Julia Gillard announced that the Government would create a joint committee to
conduct an inquiry into cyber safety in schools. At the same time, she announced the fact that
she'd entered into a partnership with the Alannah and Madeline Foundation to the tune of $3 million
to pilot 164 schools with a brand new system to address cyber bullying in schools. Now what I find
extraordinary is that the Alannah and Madeline Foundation have actually moved into solution mode,
yet the minister at the same time as giving them money for the pilot has actually decided to start
an inquiry. It doesn't seem to make much sense to me.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Anecdotally, this has been a key concern of parents for a long time. And it does
seems on the face of it to be something like an epidemic of anxiety in this generation of
adolescents and perhaps has been so for the past few years at least. Now is that a reality?

MICHAEL CARR-GREGG: Well I think it is, and if you look at some of the constant research from
organisations like Mission Australia you'll see that bullying and harassment is a source of major
anxiety in the lives of young Australians and it's time that we actually addressed it. Part of the
problem is the lack of a consistent policy right around Australia. So you could go to a school,
Kerry, tomorrow and you could grab a kid and ask them four questions. The first question would be:
have you been involved in the drawing up of the bullying and harassment policy in your school? The
second question might be: to what extent is the curriculum that you get related to or backed up by
the bullying and harassment policy? You could also ask the staff there how much PD they get and you
could also ask the parents in the school how much information they get. I think there is an
enormous amount of frustration around this. The NSW Parliament has just completed an inquiry into
bullying and harassment. They've come up with a whole lot of recommendation, one of which includes
having a national anti-bullying week, to have random audits of schools to make sure that all
schools put their bullying and harassment policies up on the websites. I mean, there's a lot of
work to be done.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Is this a black and white issue? The good kids and the bad kids, the bullies and the
victims. It's not black and white, is it? It's a real kind of merge of a thing.

MICHAEL CARR-GREGG: Oh, there's no question. And today's victim can become tomorrow's bully,
there's no question. What we have to recognise is that when we look at the literature we see that
there's a spike in bullying when kids move from primary to secondary, so we know that that is a
major time. The question is: what are we actually doing about it? We know that boys engage in the
more physical staff and the girls the more psychological stuff. We know that there's been increase
in cyber bullying and harassment. What we need is a comprehensive set of guidelines for all schools
right across Australia, and, you know, the thing that's a little bit frustrating is the Alannah and
Madeline Foundation have come up with a world-first brilliant strategy which has an evidence base
to it, and the Government's conducting an inquiry. It doesn't make any sense.

KERRY O'BRIEN: So the illustration that you just gave, a kid moving from primary to secondary,
would suggest that the anxiety is leading to the bullying rather than bullying leading to - I'm
sure that the bullying itself might lead to further anxiety, but does it start with - it must start
with other problems that lead to the bullying. Is anxiety at the heart of much of this?

MICHAEL CARR-GREGG: It is, but there are risk factors which we know exist within the individual,
within their family, within the school, within the community and within their peer group. So it's a
very complex issue. We know that male youth violence stems from those five domains, but we also
know what the protective factors are. Is it time to start a national conversation about the
introduction of anger management, problem solving, decision making, conflict resolution skills into
schools? Is it time that we talked about whether or not the constant diet of violence as
entertainment which is served up to our kids may in fact 1.) desensitize kids to violence, but may
also get them to see violence as a problem solving device.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Is it simply that school is a tougher environment today or is it a wider problem
that is simply brought to the school?

MICHAEL CARR-GREGG: I think the young people of today are the most vulnerable generation I've ever
come across. I think that they come to school with a range of more complex problems than ever
before, and my heart goes out to schools because they now have to confront these problems in a way
that perhaps was not thought of 20 years ago.

KERRY O'BRIEN: How capable is a young adolescent today of understanding consequences? How do we
expect them - or can we expect them to make the right judgments about these things?

MICHAEL CARR-GREGG: No, I don't think we can. I think what the research is now showing us very
clearly is that the teenage brain is fully developed in the mid-20s; there're gender differences,
girls brains seem to be developed round about 23, boys on a good day with the wind behind you, 25.
But the reality is that kids need guidelines, they need boundaries, they need limits and they need
examples set. But they also need clear guidelines as to what is and what is not acceptable

KERRY O'BRIEN: Well to what extent is this a middle class syndrome and to what extent are kids
being coddled? To what extent are parents themselves visiting their anxieties on the kids, trying
to protect them too much?

MICHAEL CARR-GREGG: Oh, I think there's a lot of risk-adverse parenting out there. I think parental
anxiety will now be ratcheted up as a result of this incident and others, and I think many parents
will be more fearful now than ever before. I don't think that's not a good thing. What I would be
saying to children across Australia right now is that this is a very rare event. That this is
something which has happened and sometimes in life bad things happen to good people and that is the
intangibility of life. But we need to move on and we need to learn from this experience.

KERRY O'BRIEN: You touched on cyber bullying. How much of this is about a kind of - about the
broadening and the complications of social networking today, particularly the net, also the impact
of today's media on kids? You've touched on that again - not just screen violence, but things like
reality shows - and that was evidence given to that NSW inquiry you referred to, that reality shows
where meanness can be implied to be funny or clever or a virtue of some.

MICHAEL CARR-GREGG: Sure, I mean, this is again another community risk factor where we glorify
bullying and harassment. Look, I think one of the issues which is really clear to me is we need a
framework for all schools to be able to say, "Look, this is what the evidence base says works; this
is what we can do tomorrow to make a difference." And I hate to go on about it, but the Alannah and
Madeline Foundation have got a framework. It is being trialled in schools, 162 schools throughout
Australia. We need to look at those results and we need to make them nationwide. The cost to the
Australian Government would be somewhere in the order of about $10 million, which is peanuts in
terms of the amount of harm being done to the victims of bullying and harassment across Australia.

KERRY O'BRIEN: What is at the heart of that particular group? What is it that you are so struck by?

MICHAEL CARR-GREGG: Well, it's based on a marvellous public health change model known as the
SunSmart Program. And what they did is, the cancer societies around Australia came up with a
protocol whereby all schools had the capacity to know which curriculum, which policies, which
practices work in terms of protecting young people from sun exposure. What the Alannah and Madeline
Foundation have done is they've taken that exact same framework and come up with a system whereby
all schools will be able to earn themselves, if you like, a tick for having the correct curriculum,
the correct policies and the correct practices. And, to me, this is the logical way to go. It's not
forcing schools to do anything, but it's saying, "Here's the evidence base. This is what works."

KERRY O'BRIEN: There must be enormous pressure on teachers in this day and age trying to cope with
the range of syndromes that we're talking about. How much responsibility should teachers be
expected to carry about the social and emotional side of children's lives?

MICHAEL CARR-GREGG: Well I think it's very difficult for teachers and schools. Schools have an
obligation to provide your son, my son, everybody's children with a safe environment in which to
learn. So they can only do what they can do. But they require more resources, they require better
training. Perfect example is the technique of Shared Concern developed by Anatol Pikas. Now that is
an evidence-based strategy to deal with bullying. The evidence suggests that when you use that
technique in two out of three cases the bullying issue is resolved. Now, why would you not train
teachers throughout Australia in that technique? Then you've got the other problem you mentioned
earlier, which is cyber bullying. Now you have to understand that cyber bullying is the same wine
in a bigger and more pernicious glass. So that requires on acceptable use policy that every single
member of the school community needs to sign off on, and there needs to be clearly articulated
rules and regulations and consequences for breaches of those rules.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Now what conversation should parents be having with their children, their teenage
children and pre-teen children about the kind of tragedy that happened in Brisbane, in the wake of
a tragedy like Brisbane?

MICHAEL CARR-GREGG: Well, first of all, that it was an unusual incident. That, in fact, they - that
the reality is these things don't happen very often. They need to be asked how they feel. They need
to have their feelings legitimised, and they need to be told then that this is a moment that we can
learn from, that we can move on from, and that most importantly, the reality is we live in a very,
very safe country, it's unlikely to happen again.

KERRY O'BRIEN: And quickly, what do you say to those who say, "Ahh, we must have increased school
security. There's more violence than there was. This is something to be alarmed about."

MICHAEL CARR-GREGG: It's a knee-jerk reaction. The reality is that we need in schools is a
framework which is gonna help work through the massive complexity of bullying and metal detectors
aren't gonna be the solution.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Michael Carr-Gregg, thanks for talking with us.


Thin Green Line - dangers of protecting rare species

Thin Green Line - dangers of protecting rare species

Broadcast: 16/02/2010

Reporter: Brigid Donovan

Victorian park ranger and documentary maker Sean Wilmore's film The Thin Green Line premiered
around the world in 2007 and since then $200 000 has been raised to help the families of rangers
killed while protecting some of the world's most endangered species.


KERRY O'BRIEN, PRESENTER: Three years ago on this program Victorian park ranger Sean Willmore told
of his adventures travelling and filming fellow rangers in 23 countries. It resulted in the
documentary 'The Thin Green Line', which premiered around the globe in 2007. Since then, $200,000
has been raised to help the families of rangers killed while trying to protect some of the world's
most endangered species. Last year the now former park ranger won a United Nations environment
award for his work and continues to attract support from high-profile Australians. Brigid Donovan

BRIGID DONOVAN, REPORTER: When Australia's best-selling author Bryce Courtenay offered to help Sean
Willmore finish his film 'The Thin Green Line', he had no idea what he was getting himself into.

BRYCE COURTENAY, THIN GREEN LINE AMBASSADOR: I shared a passion of somebody like Sean. Here's a
young bloke who one day just realised there was a need, had no money, had nothing, mortgaged his
house. I think he's mortgaged it three times now.

SEAN WILLMORE, THIN GREEN LINE FOUNDER: I was broke and trying to finish the film and they sent me
a small cheque with a note saying, "Here's some thin black lines for your Thin Green Line," which
was quite cute. And to get it from Bryce Courtenay and Christine was a buzz and an energy lift in
itself. But that was the beginning of a relationship that's endured over the last few years.

CHRISTINE GEE, THIN GREEN LINE AMBASSADOR: We cannot imagine the horror of what these rangers face
each day, keeping the wildlife that we love, all the warm fuzzy stuff, that they're out there
risking their life every day.

BRIGID DONOVAN: It all began in 2004, when Sean Willmore mortgaged his house, sold his car and
travelled to 23 countries where he had unique access to his fellow park rangers. He decided to
videotape his journey, despite no filmmaking experience.

His travels took him to some of the most unstable and dangerous parts of the world, such as
Uganda's Bwindi National Park, close to the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Here
rangers protect half the world's surviving mountain gorillas, sometimes with their own lives.

SEAN WILLMORE: There's been 158 rangers killed in the last 10 years in one national park.

BRIGID DONOVAN: After the success of the documentary, the Thin Green Line Foundation was born. So
far, it's raised $200,000 and Sean Willmore's pledge is to return 100 per cent of the money to the
families of rangers killed.

SEAN WILLMORE: Often we'll support the kids to go back to school because they've been ripped out of
school, as there's no money in the family. We give them the equivalent of a year's salary in most
cases, and if they had that kind of cash lying around the house they'd become victims of robbers
and thieves and murderers. So we actually don't give them money. We don't want to be responsible
for them having problems, and we manage it with programs instead.

BRIGID DONOVAN: Sean Willmore met with the Conganese widows who are often left homeless after their
partners are killed by poachers or rebels in the civil war.

SEAN WILLMORE: How long ago was he killed?

CONGANESE MAN: (Inaudible).

SEAN WILLMORE: And this is his son?

CONGANESE MAN: Yeah, his son's the last one.

SEAN WILLMORE: Can you say to all of them, "Sorry for these difficult questions, but it's necessary
to understand what we might be able to do to help?"

I met over 155 of those widows and their story was compelling and many told me that they lived in
total darkness without hope. And even the thought of someone helping them gave them a little bit of
hope again.

BRIGID DONOVAN: In his 2008 visit to the Congo, Sean Willmore was guarded by men with AK-47s. Two
months after he left, 5,000 rebels came through the national park, forcing rangers and their
families to flee for their lives. Some were killed in the attack.

SEAN WILLMORE: It's a very hairy situation. The people there live with total anxiety. Is it gonna
come again tomorrow? Is it gonna come again in seven days? Is it gonna come again in two months or
a year? They don't know. And so, it's quite incredible that the rangers stay there and they
continue their work and the families continue to be resilient.

BRIGID DONOVAN: A world away in the eastern suburbs of Sydney, Bryce Courtenay and Christine Gee
are hosting a cocktail party to support the Thin Green Line Foundation.

CAROLINE PEMBERTON, MISS AUSTRALIA 2007: It's really good to get to the grassroots level. And that
also appealed to me with what Sean's doing, you know? He's right in there at the frontline. So,
that's sort of something to be really supportive of.

LINCOLN HALL, MOUNTAINEER: He has these impossible dreams almost and then he makes them happen, and
what happens then is he leaves a trail of sort of shattered people behind him who've been, well,
drawn in and inspired. And that energy is just extraordinary. I mean, it's just this
seat-of-the-pants-type stuff.

BRIGID DONOVAN: Illness may keep Sean Willmore on the seat of his pants for a while. Since his
return from Bolivia in November, he has been laid low with Dengue Fever. He's been told it's too
risky to travel for the next 12 months, so he's hoping to work with other organisations to ensure
the support continues to get through to the families of killed rangers.

SEAN WILLMORE: It can't be me travelling all over the world all the time because we've got a
growing number of families that need support. So we create links with ranger communities, with
other NGOs and other conservation organisations to actually implement our support. So that's a
growing thing. We're only two years old and we've only supported 57 families, and as I said, we
have 1,000 to support.

BRYCE COURTENAY: Sean is sort of the Steve Irwin that's taken over from Steve Irwin. He cares with
his whole being, everything he cares, and he puts everything on the line, and time and time again
he's been absolutely, totally broke.

SEAN WILLMORE: Sean Willmore hopes he won't be broke forever. This year will see him release a
children's park ranger adventure book and an autobiography. But this thoughts will never be far
from The Thin Green Line.

BRYCE COURTENAY: How do I keep by energy levels going? I mean, can't you see the bags under my
eyes. It's difficult work and it's trying at times, but I always get an email from a ranger
somewhere that boosts me up, or the fact that Bryce and Christine offered to have a function at
their house gives me another boost that people are actually supporting what I do. That's what
life's about. You may as well use it for something good. I'll try and get a surf in between here
and there.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Brigid Donovan with that report.

That's the program. Join us tomorrow but for now, goodnight.