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Jacqui Lambie's very personal search for answers to Australia's ice problem -

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LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: Love her or loathe her, the Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie has built a reputation as a straight talker prepared to fight passionately for what she believes in.

Right now, she's in the midst of her greatest battle.

Last month the senator shocked the country by revealing that her youngest son is addicted to the drug ice.

Jacquie Lambie's on a desperate quest to help find a way to help her son and others who are on the same path.

Senator Lambie gave 7.30's Michael Atkin this special access into her search for help and answers.

MICHAEL ATKIN, REPORTER: In the working class city of Devonport in Tasmania's North West Jacqui Lambie has come to talk about an urgent problem.

It's Wednesday evening and Jacqui Lambie is hard at work in her electorate.

Locals here in Devonport are angry about the slashing of services at a nearby hospital and the Tasmanian senator is on message.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: No-one, no-one has thought about the patient.

JACQUI LAMBIE, INDEPENDENT SENATOR: The waiting lists are gonna get longer and more bloody people are gonna die, more Tasmanians are gonna die, and that's the truth of the matter.

(Applause from audience)

MICHAEL ATKIN: What this crowd doesn't know is Jacqui Lambie has just come from seeing her youngest son for the first time since she revealed he's an ice addict.

JACQUI LAMBIE: He's off his head on ice. It was so pleasantly lovely - not. Yeah. Anyway.

MICHAEL ATKIN: She's not the only one here who's seen ice destroy people they care about.

What have you seen it do to people?

MAN: Oh, just them asking for money, go off the rails, lose jobs. And, yeah, just turning on their mates for just a drug, which is wrong.

MICHAEL ATKIN: Jacqui Lambie raised her sons as a single mother. In early August, she used Parliament to admit she felt powerless and didn't know what to do about one of them.

JACQUI LAMBIE (10th August): I'm a senator of Australia and I have a 21-year-old son that has a problem with ice. And yet even with my title, I can - I have no control over my son. I can't involuntarily detox my own son.

MICHAEL ATKIN: Senator Lambie is determined to find a solution to the nation's ice problem, a mission both public and personal.

JACQUI LAMBIE: So this is just gonna be a very, very long road for me, let alone my son, who like many ice addicts out there is living in denial. So at least if I can just get one step ahead so when he's ready I know exactly what to do and where to send him and the best approach that I can actually take with him to give him another chance at getting his life back on track.

MICHAEL ATKIN: She's come to learn from a drug rehab centre called Serenity House, one of the only facilities in the region.

JANINE, SERENITY HOUSE EMPLOYEE: Hello, Jacqui. Welcome to Serenity House.

JACQUI LAMBIE: Hello. Thank you, thank you. Hello.


JANINE: This is my CEO.

JACQUI LAMBIE: It's lovely to meet you.

STEPHEN BROWN: CEO of the - lovely to meet you.

JACQUI LAMBIE: And how's it going in here?

STEPHEN BROWN: Well we're full at the moment, aren't we, Janine?

JANINE: We are indeed, yes, full.

MICHAEL ATKIN: Drug and alcohol addicts come here voluntarily for an intensive two-week detox.

In the courtyard she's introduced to two young users. Cam is a year younger than Lambie's son.

JACQUI LAMBIE: You are a young fella. Is this the first time? What are you struggling with? Do you mind if I ask?



CAM: And a bitta other things, but I was lucky enough to get out of that, so - the other stuff, so.

JACQUI LAMBIE: You have been lucky so far. Do you want to clean right up? ... So what got you guys here? Did you just hear about this or you been ... ?

CAM: I heard about it, but then I also wanted to make a change for myself, not just everyone else. Like, there's no point being here if you're not gonna do it for yourself, really. So, yeah.

JACQUI LAMBIE: No, you sorta - you've gotta want do it, don't you? Otherwise ...

CAM: I wasn't forced. It was my option to come here and I chose that option to fix it, so.

MICHAEL ATKIN: It's a choice Jacqui Lambie is hoping her own son will make, but he's far from that point. She confides he's moving in a crowd that's asking for trouble.

JACQUI LAMBIE: They've got so much control, they're running around with no drivers licenses and they're getting pulled up for DUI on top and they're carrying drugs in the boots of their car, but, yeah, they've got control of the situation, yep. It's just heartbreaking.

MICHAEL ATKIN: Away from the recovering addicts, the senator becomes Jacqui Lambie, the mother.

JACQUI LAMBIE: I'm not talking to my son anymore. You know, I can't get any sense out of this little human being sitting out there.

JANINE: You're talking to the drug.

JACQUI LAMBIE: I've lost him. (Becoming emotional) I can't help him and he needs the help. You know, and I pray - I sometimes pray and think, you know, he is gonna end up in jail, but I can only pray because that's where he's heading. I already know he's already been in trouble over the last few months - I know that. I can only pray that a court will see enough sense and he hasn't done enough harm that the court will give him the option saying, "Right, you will go into rehab for the next six months or you're going to jail." Because right now, that is the only way I'll get my son back. And you know what? That's the reality of the situation. That's where I'm at. And that's where hundreds of thousands of, you know, parents are at.

MICHAEL ATKIN: For Jacqui Lambie, the solution is to force ice addicts under the age of 18 into compulsory rehabilitation, but many on the frontline don't believe it will work.

JACQUI LAMBIE: They now need guidance. They can't leave it into their own hands any more.

JANINE: I agree with early intervention and education. I am not convinced about forced rehab, but you know that.

JACQUI LAMBIE: Yeah, I know that, I know that, but I think whether they're nine, 10, 12 or 13, that their brains haven't even developed properly and if that means that we have to put 'em into rehab to see the light, I think there's no other option unless we leave them out there on the streets.

MICHAEL ATKIN: Despite her conviction, Jacqui Lambie admits her son wouldn't last a day if he was forced into treatment.

JACQUI LAMBIE (August 10): If I tried to put my son in there right now, the way things are, even if I got him to the door, he would walk out the front door.

MICHAEL ATKIN: Jacqui Lambie is taking comfort from the support she's received from across the country.

She's using that support to keep her going.

JACQUI LAMBIE: I've got no power and no power control 'cause I can't help my own son. So, you know - yeah, so I'm struggling with that. I'm struggling with that a little bit, but, you know, it's on the run now and I need to be out there and I need to be trying to help others. You know, at least - so hopefully just something will switch in his head and he'll just say, "Please give me some help now. I need it."

LEIGH SALES: Michael Atkin reporting.