An open letter from past and incumbent Presidents of the
Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia dated 22 January 2014
“The Australian community is finally waking up to the grim reality that our nation has a major drinking problem which, if we are to counter it, will require the development of and commitment to effective strategies.
The Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia (ADCA) has a key role to play in this critically important policy conversation. In this context, the decision to defund the organisation looks like a cynical ploy to stifle public debate. It is at best hasty and poorly-considered and should be revoked.”
This sentiment is typical of responses contained in a well-supported petition calling on the Prime Minister to overturn what we all consider to be the government’s completely unwarranted action in shutting ADCA down.
ADCA has been the national representative of people and organisations involved in the drug and alcohol sector for nearly half a century. It has been extensively involved in advocacy on their behalf, developing policy based on decades of research and evidence, raising important issues with successive governments at federal and state level. It has assisted governments and non-government organisations in our region to introduce evidenced-based prevention and treatment programs.
For your info current Aboriginal Drug and Alcohol organisation
Call for Abstracts Extended to 31 January 2014
Since its establishment as an initiative of, among others, the eminent Australians Sir Edward (Weary) Dunlop and Sir William Refshauge, it has dealt with governments of all persuasions, always from an evidence-informed stance. There is no other organisation in Australia that has the depth of corporate knowledge in this field. Nor is there another body that so completely represents those who work in the sector.
A key example of ADCA’s national leadership has been in medical education, with the now well-established principle of alcohol and other drugs (AOD) being a central part of medical schools curricula.
As past and present heads of the organisation, we are deeply disappointed by the Abbott government’s seemingly non-negotiable stance on the issue. Neither the assistant Health Minister Senator Nash, whose decision it apparently was, nor Health Minister Peter Dutton have had any contact with ADCA; we doubt that either of them have any idea of the work that ADCA and its subsidiary the National Drug Sector Information Service (NDSIS) do. The NDSIS plays an important role in professional and para-professional workforce development within the AOD sector.
The ministers certainly haven’t told their fellow coalition members that they’ve put an end to Drug Action Week, the highly successful ADCA-run awareness program that has gone from strength to strength over the past 13 years, with more than 1000 events run Australia wide in 2013. ADCA was astounded to receive a call from a Liberal backbencher’s staff this month asking whether we’d decided on the timing of DAW 2014.
ADCA was presented with a fait accompli at the end of November 2013 based on the dubious claim that the government’s decision was entirely based on debt reduction. There’s simple arithmetic here; how does the government reconcile the saving of $1.5 million a year against the estimated annual cost of $50 billion in harm from alcohol and other drugs – not to mention the loss of nearly five decades of experience, expertise and policy development?
ADCA and other organisations in the sector have written to a succession of national political leaders over the past decade urging action on the emergence of the major problem that Australia’s thirst for alcohol is causing our health and social systems and the broader Australian society. Despite our approaches, the sorry lack of government action means the problem has compounded to crisis point, a crisis recognised in part by the New South Wales government only this week.
The undersigned are concerned that the Prime Minister’s new awakening to the country’s alcohol problems, while welcome, hardly seems credible in light of his government’s recent actions. We call on Mr Abbott to overturn this “socially backward step” as one of us has described the decision, and to restore ADCA to the vital role it plays in Australian society.
Dr Mal Washer ,Dr Neal Blewett , Prof. Ian Webster , Prof. Robin Room ,Dr Nanette Waddy AC