Ice forum attracts Federal ministers and stinging questions about the drug


Justice Minister Michael Keenan, Cowan MHR Luke Simpkins and Health Minister Sussan Ley at the forum talking to residents, including Sonia Makoare (bottom left).
Justice Minister Michael Keenan, Cowan MHR Luke Simpkins and Health Minister Sussan Ley at the forum talking to residents, including Sonia Makoare (bottom left).

EDUCATION is the key to reducing problems associated with drugs such as ice.

That was the overwhelming message from residents invited to a forum in Marangaroo hosted by Cowan MHR Luke Simpkins and attended by Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley and Justice Minister Michael Keenan.

Ms Ley told the crowd of about 40 people, who had previously raised crime issues with Mr Simpkins, that the Government would provide $241 million to the country’s 31 Primary Health Networks for treatment services as part of the National Ice Taskforce.

Each network is responsible for how funding is used, informed by clinical counsellors and community advisory groups.

“Our clear message is that we are not going to tell communities how that should be spent,” she said.

“We should actually be listening to what individual communities need, it’s different everywhere and the good thing is that they do know what they need.”

Mr Keenan said the Government’s approach was to tackle supply and demand.

“We are going to take as much of that supply off the streets as possible but we’ve got to work on the demand side as well if we are actually going to have an impact about reducing the incidents and the problems associated with this drug throughout the community,” he said.

“We’re seeing an explosion in demand and creating a very significant problem in WA sadly, worse than other parts of the country.”

He said they were doing “absolutely everything” to make ice unavailable.

“We’re arresting more people; we’re stopping organisations bringing drugs into Australia,” he said.

Despite the ministers’ commitments, most audience members said they wanted greater emphasis placed on drug education in schools.

Greenwood resident Sonia Makoare said she appreciated the forum’s intent but was disappointed with the result.

“I didn’t hear anything I hadn’t heard before,” she said.

“The overwhelming majority of people there were trying to express that prevention was better than cure so maybe they’ll look a little bit deeper into what they can do to stop people before they get to a point where they’re actually using the drug.”

Mrs Makoare said she had watched as her neighbour “spiralled downhill” in the past six months, which she believed was related to ice use.

“He has just lost so much weight, his whole body’s changed obviously because of the drugs, he’s lost his job,” she said.

“Since this has happened there has been a lot of crime just in our little part of the neighbourhood.”

She said police had visited the man numerous times and one night he was arrested.

“It took about seven officers to get him into the back of paddy wagon because he was just going off his face,” she said.

“He banged and kicked and screamed and carried on in the back of this wagon.

“It’s just not something you want to see in your own backyard but it’s a reality check that it’s actually happening everywhere, it’s in every suburb.”

Perth North primary Health Network (PHN) will share in the government funding from July 1, spread over four years.

General manager Bernadette Kenny said it was not yet known how much money the network would receive but it would be used to commission new treatment services, including for ice.

“Perth North PHN is also working closely with the Mental Health Commission WA to scope co-commissioning opportunities while making sure identified gaps in services are addressed and limiting duplication of services,” she said.

“(The network) has undertaken a comprehensive alcohol and other drugs baseline needs assessment with WA Network of Alcohol and Other Drug Agencies, the Aboriginal Health Council of WA, Mental Health Commission and Curtin University.

“The evidence-based priorities identified from the assessment will help inform funding allocation.”

DRUG education resources are provided free to WA schools by the State Government’s Schools Drug Education and Road Aware.

Acting manager Anne Miller said its aim was to prevent and reduce drug-related harm in people under 18.

“We have a suite of resources that have been developed to be flexible and adaptable when implementing a whole school approach to drug education,” she said.

“Effective school drug education focuses on skills development and provides students with the capacity to make healthier and more responsible decisions.

“We have moved a long way from the traditional approach to drug education, which focused mainly on provision of information about drugs and their possible harmful consequences.”

Ms Miller said drug prevention education was best introduced in early childhood.

“Drug education must also be age appropriate and continue through a child’s years of schooling,” she said.

“Education about illicit drugs including methamphetamine would be included from the secondary years.”

She said health and physical education had clearly outlined content for pre-primary to year 10 students but teachers decided what resources to use, and though it was mandated there was no minimum requirement.

Also read: Wanneroo drug information session for parents.