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Strong family connections and kinship within south-west Aboriginal communities is facing one of its biggest-ever tests from methamphetamine (ice).
'More and more it's breaking up family units and causing dramas and troubles never seen before,' Ngunnung committee member and Aboriginal Programs Manager at South West Healthcare, Allan Miller, told a parliamentary committee inquiry yesterday in Warrnambool, Victoria. 'The family process has never been challenged as much as with ice.'
He cited a 28-year-old Warrnambool district woman's response to a recent survey carried out by the Ngunnung committee, established specifically to tackle ice in south west Victoria. The woman said her family and children had been separated because of her addictions. 'I can't have a convo (conversation) with people, I'm always nasty,' she said when describing the effects of the drug. 'For other family members it's like they go through the drug habit without using it.'
Parliamentary committee hearing Chairman, Simon Ramsay, said earlier sittings in Mildura and Shepparton revealed links between ice addiction and lack of parental control, high truancy and how dealers offered ice at low cost or for free as introductions to Indigenous communities with previous alcohol and cannabis addiction problems. 'Users become beholden to dealers and develop habits of up to $3000 a week,' he said.
Mr Miller, with fellow Ngunnung committee member and Aboriginal community Liaison Officer, Joey Chatfield, said there were no rehabilitation facilities west of Melbourne and none elsewhere that were culturally appropriate.
They were supported by Mark Powell, Diagnosis Clinician with Headspace, in calling for locally-based referral bases, known as healing centres, to provide early intervention and mentoring. Magistrate, Peter Mellas, also supported the concept of healing centres. 'If Aboriginal people are connected with their traditional country there's a better outcome,' Mr Chatfield said.
According to Mr Chatfield some people were switching to ice because it was cheaper than alcohol. 'I don't think users are fully educated on what impact ice has on them,' he said. 'We need to target kids we see are at risk and develop role models and leadership programs.'
Source: The Standard