‘I lost a relative to heroin. It came with no warning. Bang! They were gone. That’s why I joined ‘Our Town’s Ice Fight’. After the attack in the Bourke St. Mall, we are all reminded of the heartbreak Ice can cause’. I’m interviewing Ian Campbell, the Geelong Community Drug Action Group’s treasurer and representative from Rotary along with the group’s President, Peter Hester.
‘Our mantra is Prevention through awareness and education. We formed to tackle the crisis around Ice in the Geelong and Barwon region. The group’s aim is to unite the local community to address the impact of substance abuse. We are assisted by police, businesses and employers and see ourselves as ‘enablers’ supporting our local best practise service providers in the provision of drug counselling, rehabilitation and support services.
‘We went with the name ‘Our Town’s Ice Fight’ so the documents and principles are transferrable to any town in Australia. http://www.icefight.com.au/. Our ‘Clubs that Care’ program has a document that’s a management plan if Clubs are ever confronted with drug use problems. There were players active in sport, going out onto the field Iced up. For tradesmen, we hold awareness seminars and in conjunction with the Australian Drug Foundation, developed an iPhone app to intervene on worksites where Ice use could be a problem. It involves an initial accreditation and a 3 monthly refresher course and runs alongside random testing to ensure OH&S on a worksite.
‘150 people attended our Family Awareness public forum in June. We hope to make this an annual information session. We used Family Drug Support expertise and had a number of family members give presentations on managing drug addiction in the family. We produced a fact sheet that’s a quick reference guide to drug services and information and also a booklet ‘Ice – What you need to know’. We’ve had calls from all over Australia asking for the booklets. We have been the trail blazers in this Australia wide fight.
‘We believe one answer to the Ice problem is education. That’s why we have teamed up with Northern Bay Secondary College and are supporting their Outdoor Ed program which has a learning and life skills focus, they run at Staughton Vale. It is about instilling pride and respect and its ultimate objective, is keeping students in education and helping them to make wise life choices and aims to plot a pathway to work for each student. Anne-Marie Ryan from the Geelong Local Learning & Education Network is active in developing pathways to work for these people, and for people caught up in the Youth Justice system.
‘Youth offenders are often made to do community services like picking up papers along the highway or removing graffiti. While this helps the environment, it doesn’t identify the root cause of the offending or help reform the individual. We believe that further work is needed to identify the underlying cause/s of the student disengagement and to intervene by providing a G-TECH type environment where we could teach them transferrable work skills while at the same time provide mentoring.
‘We concluded last year with a meeting where 8 service providers from Geelong were represented so our grass roots focus is coming from the local community.
‘We don’t think building bigger jails is the answer. That’s just throwing money at the wrong end of the problem after the horse has bolted. I’d love to see an a-political research study undertaken to help understand the root causes of the problem’ says Peter.
Ian adds, ‘With Rotary behind us we have an army of skilled and experienced people to help with obtaining funding and with lobbying, in organizing public events, and in providing mentors. We can make a difference in young people’s lives provided we can set them on the right path at school and provide support and counselling along the way. We’ve found great generosity whenever we have approached businesses for funds, help and in-kind support. The effects of drugs touches everyone. This is a community fight. Peter and I are behind the scenes people, who see our roles as enablers of change, with experience as managers in our own fields. We always have room for others to help too. This fight requires smart thinking. Anyone interested in helping us can contact Peter on 0400 056401 or Ian on 0408 082514