Binjang Marrang-Billa Project: a Culturally Effective Drug Treatment Program in the Macquarie Region

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1 David Kelly Binjang Marrang-Billa Project: a Culturally Effective Drug Treatment Program in the Macquarie Region David Kelly, Royden Griffen Royden Griffen Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, 4-7 March 2001

2 Binjang Marrang-Billa Project: a culturally effective drug treatment program in the Macquarie region David Kelly, Royden Griffen, Wellington Aboriginal Corporation Health Service Mr Kelly (continuing): [About Wellington in NSW] twelve hundred of which is Aboriginal and there s about people in the Shire which we also service. And in 1999 we actually received funding from the Commonwealth National Illicit Drug Strategy to carry out a consultancy into recommendations for the development of a drug rehabilitation centre for adolescents use in the Macquarie Area Health Service. And that was based on the Ted Noffs Centre in Sydney who have expertise in dealing with adolescents who suffer drug misuse or abuse. So, in February 2000, Lee Cooper & Associates was appointed as consultants to carry out this consultancy and it became pretty clear at the beginning of the consultancy that there wasn t any money around to develop a rehabilitation centre so that meant that we had to change the old concept of the original submission that went in. Because when we went to the Commonwealth they said it wasn t their problem and when we went to the State they said it wasn t their problem. So, we had to change directions and one of the first things we changed was in the original submission there was money for a trainee house manager and, of course, we had to change that because there was no house to manage. So, we changed that over to a community development officer in which Royden was successful in getting to work wholly and solely on the program and to pull all the players together. But we also needed to change the direction of the program because, as I said earlier, we couldn t do a rehabilitation centre so we started to look at intervention and awareness, education, right through as this graph should show. Because a lot of people were dealing in prevention, in harm reduction, in clinical care, in substance specific services but no-one was going right across the board. So, with that recommendation that came out of the review of the Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander substance use program, we put our own circle on the top calling it Life Skills. We wanted to cover the whole sphere and encompass everything for adolescents on drug use right from early intervention and awareness right through to looking after the people who suffer from the effects of abuse. So, that s about all from me. Royden is going to actually take us into the program and I ll just say a few words at the end. Mr Griffen: Just before I start, and I do it on many occasions, I d like to just acknowledge the traditional or the people we regard as the traditional owners of this area which is the Ngunnawal tribe and I come from the Binjang tribe which is part of the Wiradjuri Nation so that is where we actually get the name of the actual program which was up there at the start, Binjang Marrang-Billa. Marrang-Billa is the name that our people gave the Macquarie River. So, that s just a bit of background information. 1

3 In the program our target groups, the Aboriginal kids at school, and also adolescents, Aboriginal adolescents at risk and also with the young ones that are experimenting with substances, whether that s heroin or marijuana or all those other types of addictive drugs. And we also target Aboriginal adolescents who are right into using substances and we also target those that are suffering from the side-effects of previous or current use of drugs. (This is all new to me, this technology.) That is just a bit of a picture of our target group in discussion and we have staff who actually do that. The other areas that we ve actually consulted in, we ve consulted with the Koengarbang Aboriginal Corporation. This is an organisation set up to it actually owns a property which is one of the phases in our plans to address the situation in our community. We have also consulted with the board members of the health service. We ve spoken to other staff in the health service. We ve also spoken to young people and their families. Also we have been in touch with the Wellington Shire Council and also the local magistrate who has been very understanding to what we are on about. Other areas that people were consulted with was Juvenile Justice. We have even got a working relationship with the local police through our Aboriginal Community Relation Officer and also the [Police Citizens Youth Club] PCYC. We have a partnership with the Macquarie Area Health Service, also the Department of Community Services and also with the Western Aboriginal Legal Service. We have also consulted with New South Wales Health, the Premier s Department, the Ted Noffs Foundation, Sydney University, the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care. Also OATSIH, that s the Office of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and another player in this which we hope to bring on board is the Aboriginal hostels. Other things that we ve actually done in the process of getting this project together, is we ve read quite a few reports including the Koori Community Report and that was on health care planning in our own district. We ve read similar information from other urban Indigenous communities. Also we ve kept up with the stuff in relation to the National Drug Strategy and also the New South Wales Drug Summit. Through the consultation process we ve actually learned in our community that drugs are the main health problem among our youth and that is followed in step also by alcohol. The drug problem is the main concern in our community. We have done a survey of our local community and the feedback that came from that was that there is belief that drug and alcohol services are needed in our community and apart from that also we have also learned that there will be a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre for juveniles or young people opening soon in the Dubbo region. We have also learned and this came from a meeting that we had with the Wellington Crime Prevention Committee and it came from the local magistrate who said that 95 per cent of court cases are drug- and alcohol-related and believe it or not 90 per cent of shoplifting in our community is either drug- or alcohol-related. What they are saying is these are different cases that are coming before the magistrate in a month so that most of those 30 or 40 cases that come there are actually repeat offenders. They are people that s doing it over and over. And through the Crime Prevention Committee there is a current meeting wanting to set up a drug court in Wellington. That is happening in other parts of New South Wales and the 2

4 Council is meeting to set up a Crime Prevention Committee with our involvement that s already happened. At first they didn t have our involvement and we were quite disturbed by that fact but since we ve had some other negotiations with the Council that has come along. The Aboriginal community that we work for is concerned because the truancy rates in the school are high. The retention rates at school are very low and a lot of things like kids getting suspended or even expelled and those things there and there are many families in the town where we ve got children the parents are misusing drugs or alcohol. The other part of that there are several families where most of their kids are actually in gaol and why they are in gaol is actually drug-related offences. And also the death rate from alcohol or drugs that relate to those things is very high in Wellington. I think there was a report out some time ago that per capita Wellington had one of the highest drug-related deaths, I think, in Australia. We are concerned because very young people use drugs and we are talking about kids 11, 12 to 18 and the young people in Wellington they also find it very hard to get work other than getting on the Community Development Employment Program. There is a higher use of heroin in Wellington than any other town on the drug circuit and that has been proven by people that front in court for being caught with heroin in possession and also using. Our big problem is that far too many people end up in gaol and that s one of the things that we want to target is to try and reduce that. We know that helping young Aboriginal people who use drugs works best when the help is culturally appropriate and that is why we had to turn this program around to make it culturally appropriate. And coming from a harm minimisation point of view we believe that young people themselves must be involved in it and although they must involve themselves right from the start we have got to takes notes then to see what they want involved in the treatment plan and rehabilitation and beyond that. So, what we are saying is that it takes a long time to do that. There is no quick fix to the solution. It could take years and years and years. Drug rehabilitation centres are set up to operate and they are usually in it for about three to twelve months. We believe that that is not sufficient. We have got to look at other alternatives and ways to improve that. What can we do? Well, at our Aboriginal service we ve actually started a drop-in centre and that s the first stage of it and I ve got to really thank OATSIH for coming to the party there. We ve been able to secure a building which is situated across the road from the health service and right next door to McDonald s. It s hard targeting kids and we re looking at the kids at risk too so it doesn t necessarily mean that the kids on drugs go to McDonald s but the other kids that are in the target also. We re also looking at we reckon we could start up a day drug treatment centre in Wellington, that s a bit further down the track but that s one of our plans. Probably the next stage is we ve got a house through the Gulargambone Aboriginal Corporation. We acquired some property, 2800 acres about 40 kilometres out of Wellington. It has a beautiful big farmhouse on it and it s about five bedrooms and we re hoping that will be later on down the track we can progress to that stage too. This is a site that s next door to McDonald s. I know it s got second-hand furniture and all that at the moment but hopefully the kids, through their involvement will get that 3

5 changed and it s actually quite big and in there we hope to have an admin support centre so that some of these kids can get in there and hopefully we ll add things so that they can create their own website and they can get in touch with other places throughout Australia and work on their issues too. At the drop-in centre we re helping the young people at risk. At a day treatment centre we can help young people with their drug problems and at Wanderby, which is the property, we re hoping to establish a residential rehabilitation centre where we can support them and teach them new skills and give them things to do and stuff like that. That s just a bit of a picture of the property. It s a lovely property. We actually haven t done a what we call a skills audit on it yet to look at ways and means of putting different projects out there. The Aboriginal or the WACs and community contribution we contribute to that staff with a youth worker, drug worker, family health worker, a social and emotional well-being team. A lot refer to it as a mental health team but we take particular offence to that and we use the term social and emotional well-being. We have a doctor, also a psychologist on hand with the provision of a shop front in the town and the provision of a house and property will be able to make the whole project work. We ve also organised training so our staff, the whole twelve members of staff, will be receiving counselling or training in counselling, will be training at the Bathurst TAFE. They devised a course, national accreditation, I believe. The Bathurst TAFE are also running the training for our staff and also once the drug and alcohol centre gets up and running which is being handled by the Ted Noffs Foundation, they ve also helped our staff with more training. Actually the role of the Ted Noffs Foundation, they ve actually worked very closely with us. Our relationship goes back over a number of years and they ve actually contributed funds to a skill program and that s through a sponsorship from AMP. We ve also contributed with support and expertise in program development. It goes on to what we could do at Wanderby. We can use the skills as an Aboriginal community and teach the young children about motor bikes and things like that all the stuff up there came from the kids themselves. They grow crops and cattle and stuff like that. That s actually just a bit of a quick picture of the farmhouse at Wanderby and we hope to develop that into something that s going to be more useful for our community and helping our kids cope with the drug and alcohol problem that we re faced with in our community. That s about it. Mr Kelly: So, it s a pretty big program and it s really a big issue in Wellington and a lot of the young kids are actually going to the hospital at this stage and getting detoxed but when they come out there s nowhere else to go and, of course, when they go back again the hospital won t take them because they said, You were here before, so it s really important that we start to do something and talk, with the drug problem in Wellington. And we ve got a meeting with the funding bodies on 16 March in Sydney which hopefully some good will come out and we can go to stage 2 of the program and actually set up that rehabilitation program because we want it to work on in stages where the kids don t realise they re actually going through it and come in to the drop-in centre and go into the day program. 4

6 AUTHORS David Kelly is a Thungutti man from Kempsey on the north coast of NSW. David worked in TAFE for 15 years as both Regional Aboriginal Co-ordinator and Aboriginal Development Manager for the north coast of NSW. During this time David was one of the first Aboriginal students to obtain an associate diploma in adult education (Aboriginal Education) and complete a six month s full-time Aboriginal management development program. David was also involved in the NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group and served as an Executive Officer and State Secretary. In 1995 David worked as deputy CEO for Durri Aboriginal Medical Service in Kempsey for three years, then moved to Dubbo in 1998 where he took up the position of Regional Aboriginal Community Planning Officer with Binnal Billa Regional Employment and Enterprise Training Aboriginal Corporation. He is currently the CEO of Wellington Aboriginal Corporation Health Service. David has brought a wealth and experience with his background in education and health management that has lead to an increase of staff and program delivery. This background has convinced David of the importance of health and education in wellbeing, health and economic development of our people. David is an active member of Bila Muuji, which is a meeting of CEOs of Aboriginal controlled medical services in the central west and far west of NSW. Royden Griffen is a Wiradjuri man from Wellington, in central western NSW, who is a descendant from one of the local tribes in that area. His professional experience includes working in the public sector, delivering a service to the Aboriginal community through such departments as Employment Education and Training, Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service and NSW Sport and Recreation. While involved in this capacity, Royden was also prominent and still is, in the development aspects of the Aboriginal community and its peoples through being on a number of committees both in his local community, and as well, at area, regional, State and national levels. It is through his involvement with community controlled organisations that Royden aspires to work toward improving overall opportunities for Aboriginal people in the community, whether that is at local, area, regional, State or a national level. Royden is an active Board member of many organisations at local, area, regional, State and national levels. He was also instrumental in the establishment of Wellington Aboriginal Corporation Health Service, where he was a Board member until taking up his current position. In his role as Project Officer for the drug and alcohol project, Royden is responsible for working with the Aboriginal community, other service providers, and government agencies, in an endeavour to develop a model of service that best meets the needs of community. Sports are also an important part of Royden s life. His past and current involvement in sport covers areas such as participating, coaching and administration. His involvement has been in a number of areas such as the surf life saving movement, rugby league football, touch football, boxing and cricket. 5

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