The Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia has called for better access to early intervention and prevention programs to help turn the tide on increasing methamphetamine use in regional WA.
AHCWA Chairperson Michelle Nelson-Cox said it beggared belief that there had not been any significant investment into grassroots community intervention programs despite “ice” use continuing to increase over the past decade.
“It is frustrating that despite several state and federal strategies highlighting the need to increase investment in community-led and culturally appropriate early intervention, prevention, treatment and support services, we are yet to see any significant amounts of funding directed to our sector and other Aboriginal community-controlled organisations,” Ms Nelson-Cox said.
Ms Nelson-Cox said there had been a concerning shift with methamphetamine use overtaking excessive alcohol use in some communities, resulting in services being unprepared and lacking the appropriate programs and services to provide care to those using the illicit drug.
“There is a growing presence of illicit drugs in the regions,” she said.
“While there is evidence that alcohol use is still higher than methamphetamine use, from the Aboriginal community perspective, we are certainly seeing methamphetamine use becoming just as significant as alcohol use.
“Our people are crying out for help. They want community-led solutions and want to work with government departments but all they are getting is lip service.”
Ms Nelson-Cox said there was no conclusive evidence that cashless welfare cards had made any impact in minimising drug use.
“Our elders are gravely concerned about the impact of the cashless welfare card. There is no significant evidence to suggest that cashless welfare cards lead to any reduction in drug use in our regional communities,” she said.
“What we have seen in certain towns is an increase around elder abuse, black-market trades of the cards for cash, reports of prostitution and a rapid rise in crime.
“Regional communities are trying to take practical approaches and strategies to deal with this problem.
“Penalising people through their Centrelink payments is not the solution. This approach will not deal with the crux of the problem, it will not empower our people and we are also yet to see investment into additional support services as was promised with its introduction.”
AHCWA is the peak body for Aboriginal health in WA, with 22 Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS) currently engaged as members.