Aboriginal groups in SA say more needs to be done to address ice in communities


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13-10-2015 06:24 PM


ABC Canberra 666

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ABC Canberra 666


13-10-2015 06:24 PM



13-10-2015 07:26 PM

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2015-10-13 18:24:40

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WHITING, Natalie



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Aboriginal groups in SA say more needs to be done to address ice in communities -

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TIM PALMER: A group of Aboriginal leaders in South Australia says governments need to have a specific focus on ice in Aboriginal communities.

A forum in Adelaide today heard from a range of speakers - including people with family members who have died from overdoses or are struggling with addiction.

The state's Aboriginal Drug and Alcohol Council is concerned the Federal Government isn't getting enough advice on the ice problem after the abolition of the National Indigenous Drug and Alcohol Committee.

In Adelaide, Natalie Whiting reports.

NATALIE WHITING: Gloria Sparrow's daughter Dianne died a month ago from a drug overdose.

Ms Sparrow and her son Lesley found her.

GLORIA SPARROW: She was dead on her lounge room floor with this stuff right at the corner of her mouth, I noticed it and I said, "What the hell is that white stuff in her mouth there?" and Lesley said, "I think that's the drugs she died from."

Well when we got the coroner's report, she did die of methamphetamine, you know. So - I mean she'd been using drugs for such a long time. She was totally addicted to it, must have been.

NATALIE WHITING: She says dealing with her daughter's addiction took a toll on her.

GLORIA SPARROW: It was night after night I'd have to go up into Hindley Street in the city and drag her home by her hair. And the police seen me looking every night, night after night, week after week. "Well have you seen Dianne?" "No we haven't seen her yet."

NATALIE WHITING: Today's forum in Adelaide heard ice use is on the rise among the Aboriginal community.

People said community members are scared to speak out because of fear of reprisals.

Diana Gross is a member of the Grannies Group - a group of Indigenous grandmothers trying to build stronger communities.

She has supported two of her sons through drug addiction.

DIANA GROSS: I just heard from a cousin of mine, her young foster boy, he's on ice. And they was telling me what their feelings are like and how it affected them, impacted on them. So, they're going through what we went through, but it was drug and alcohol, but ice is a big major thing out in the Aboriginal community now.

NATALIE WHITING: Another Grannies member Heather Agas says there needs to be more education among young people.

HEATHER AGAS: Because they're taking it because they've got issues that they're not dealing with and what they're doing is that they're just tagging kids who are in the same position. And so that's how it grows. But I understand that they're at risk of death, you know, and that's what we worry about is the risk of death to our kids.

NATALIE WHITING: The director of the South Australian Drug and Alcohol Council, Scott Wilson, was among the speakers at the forum.

The council is about to open a rehabilitation centre in Port Augusta, funded by the Federal Government.

But Mr Wilson says the problem with ice is growing.

SCOTT WILSON: I think it's huge. I think that by saying about 20 per cent of the Aboriginal population are into some form of methamphetamine use is not sort of, you know, too wild.

And it doesn't matter whether it's here - I know people in Ceduna for example who are using meth, Port Augusta, Coober Pedy. My own family, for example, are from Darwin and you know they're full into it all the way from Adelaide to the Northern Territory.

NATALIE WHITING: And is it a problem in remote communities like in the lands and up into Northern Territory?

SCOTT WILSON: I don't think it is at this stage but I don't think it'll be long.

NATALIE WHITING: The Federal Government has been running consultations and forums as part of its National Ice Taskforce.

Mr Wilson says the Taskforce needs to have a specific focus on the drug in Aboriginal communities.

SCOTT WILSON: Until recently they used to have what was called the National Indigenous Drug and Alcohol Committee which used to advise the federal government on you know what they could do, or what sort of programs were needed in communities across Australia.

Unfortunately the previous treasurer in December last year abolished that to save $190,000 a year. So unfortunately these days there's nobody that actually is giving advice to the Federal Government on what's needed and how we can proceed with those.

NATALIE WHITING: A report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute released today says there needs to be a bigger focus on treating people who are addicted.

That's something people at today's forum agree with.

Heather Agas says there needs to be programs in place to stop people relapsing.

HEATHER AGAS: That there's no follow up after they've gone through the detoxing.

We belong to a big kinship of family and so you're sending somebody that has just been detoxed and run through the program, goes back into the same sort of community where everybody else is still doing drugs.

So, you know, you're defeating the purpose of what it's all about. So, there's no follow-ups for these people when they are getting off the drugs.

NATALIE WHITING: The Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement is hoping to develop a series of suggestions and focuses for dealing with ice from the forum.

It says specific issues in Indigenous communities, such as already high rates of addiction and suicide mean a specific approach is needed.

TIM PALMER: Natalie Whiting reporting there.