In my travels across regional Victoria, I have seen and heard first-hand from families and communities affected by the drug ice.
Police, paramedics and hospital staff confronted with violent behaviour by users; families coming to terms with previously even-tempered loved ones becoming unrecognisable strangers; school students experiencing anxiety because family members are addicts; dysfunctional homes; unemployment; and crime. It goes on.
Evidence suggests there are well over 200,000 ice users in Australia. The Australian government’s Ice Taskforce has travelled across Australia and sadly everyone it spoke to had an anecdote about how ice is impacting on their communities.
In response to the Taskforce’s report, the government developed a comprehensive package of nearly $300 million to fight the scourge through improved treatment, after care, education, prevention, support, and community engagement.
• $241.5 million for Primary Health Networks (PHNs) to work with communities to determine what form of treatment will be most effective in their area.
• An additional $13 million to introduce new MBS (Medicare Benefits Scheme) items for Addiction Medicine Specialists to increase the availability of treatment.
• An additional $24.9 million to help families and communities with the resources, information and support they need to respond to ice. It includes $19.2 million for up to 220 local community drug action teams to help with coordination of resources and community forums to support both users and their families.
• An additional $18.8 million to establish better research, evidence and guidelines on ice, including a new Centre for Clinical Excellence for Emerging Drugs of Concern.
• An extra $4.6 million for the Good Sports program to promote the dangers of ice to young people in sporting clubs.
• The successful Life Education Van will start educating school children about the dangers of ice.
• A new Positive Choices website as a one-stop shop for parents, teachers and students to access information about the impacts of alcohol and drugs at https://positivechoices.org.au/
This package is focused on local level responses, acknowledging that people living locally know what’s best to promote prevention and tackle ice in their community.
Australian authorities have also developed strong partnerships with international counterparts to gather and exchange intelligence, information and assistance to target illicit drugs like ice.
More details on the government’s response are at www.health.gov.au/ice.
Senator Bridget McKenzie,
Nationals Senator for Victoria