This isn’t just Brewarrina’s problem. There are no country towns that are unaffected by drugs or violence. And this place has always had its share of troubles. But ice is relatively new here. It has grabbed people tighter and brought them down faster than anything that’s come before. It amplifies violence, it’s killing hope and it’s driving away some of the people best placed to help.
FROM THE 7.30 ABC TV Report VIEW HERE (Full Transcript below)
URGENT ACTION IS NEEDED: You are invited to submit your views by 29 May
A National Taskforce is seeking the views of the Australian community about how Australia can combat the growing problem of ‘ice’ in our community.
You are invited to submit your views, including:
- What is the impact of people using ice on our community?
- Where should federal, state and territory governments focus their efforts to combat the use of ice?
- Are there any current efforts to combat the use of ice that are particularly effective or that could be improved?
- What are the top issues that the National Ice Taskforce should consider when developing the National Ice Action Strategy?
Fact sheets are available on
Frequently Asked Questions
What is ice?
Methylamphetamines are a group of powerful stimulant drugs that include speed, base and crystal also known as ‘ice’, with ice usually the purest form.
Ice can cause psychosis and long term psychological issues and is linked to violent criminal attacks against innocent bystanders, risk taking behaviour, road deaths, robberies and vicious assaults against frontline health workers and law enforcement responders.
Why is ice a growing issue in Australia?
Australian illicit drug users pay a premium price for most illicit drugs compared to prices in key foreign markets. This makes Australia an attractive marketplace for the manufacture and importation of ice.
Like other forms of methylamphetamine, the ice market is unique among Australian illicit drug markets because there is significant domestic manufacture and importation of the drug. More than 60% of Australia’s most significant organised criminal groups are involved in the methylamphetamine market.
There appears to be an increase in the availability and use of methylamphetamine, in particular ice, in areas where the drug has not been previously prevalent – particularly regional, rural and disadvantaged communities.
The small town taking a stand against ice and domestic violence
The violent death of a teenage girl in the north-western New South Wales town of Brewarrina on Anzac Day has prompted locals to speak up about the scourge of ice and domestic violence in Indigenous communities.
Police said the young woman was killed by her boyfriend who bashed her to death during a party at their house.
They were both users of the drug crystal meth, or ice.
In response, Trish Frail helped organise a rally in the town to say no to both violence and drugs, amid concern many Indigenous people simply accepted domestic violence.
“It’s starting to get that way that now, within the Aboriginal community, people believe it’s cultural,” Ms Frail said.
“We’ve got to get that message out there — no, it’s not part of our culture.”
Local doctor Ahmed Hosni said the problem in Brewarrina was so bad that he routinely had to ask his patients about drug use.
“In any other place I used to work, I used to ask about alcohol and cigarette smoking. But here I have to ask about cannabis and ice,” Dr Hosni said.
The responses he received are staggering.
“At least 50 per cent of patients say they took it [ice] in the last 48 hours,” Dr Hosni said.
Dee Kennedy and her partner Chris were both ice users and she speaks openly about their violent relationship while on the drug.
“I was sort of hurt by a stranger, but the stranger was my partner that I’d lived with for 18 years,” she said.
“He wasn’t himself and I think it was a lot to do with that drug.”
In a brutal fight on New Year’s Eve, her partner knocked her teeth out.
But Ms Kennedy conceded she too was prone to violence.
“It was usually me. I’d become quite violent, we’d threaten a lot of violence. I really feel really embarrassed, disgusted, but I think it’s important to talk about it,” she said.
The couple have managed to stay off ice for four months — a rare achievement in Brewarrina.
Ms Kennedy said she was enjoying her new, clean life.
“It’s funny, we drove into town the other day and we were in the best of moods, my partner and I,” she said.
“I touched him on the leg when he was driving and I said, ‘sweetie, look, it’s not so bad after all — life’.
“We’re straight. What the bloody hell were we thinking, trying to be high all the time? What was the problem? What were we trying to cover? Look at the view, look at the weather.”
But not everyone is seeing such a rosy picture in the area. The violence and the drug use is driving people away.
“It’s very stressful. I don’t imagine myself working in this town for more than two years,” Dr Hosni said.
“I’ve worked here two years already and this is too much. I’ve had enough — I can’t cope any more.”
Ms Frail, who organised the anti-violence rally, is likewise in two minds about staying.
“My car has recently been stolen,” she said.
“To me it was, like, oh, I’ve had enough, I want out. Unfortunately, parts of me want out and others want to stay. I love my community but I don’t really know what to do.”
Transcript 7.30 report
LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: In Australia’s remote Indigenous communities, domestic violence is rarely spoken about. But there’s one small town in north-western New South Wales where people are now breaking that taboo after the death of a young mum.
Police say she was the victim of domestic violence and that woman’s tragic case is far from isolated.
The town’s doctor says the situation is so out of control, with ice use amplifying aggression and paranoia when it comes to users, that he can’t take it anymore.
Adam Harvey and Dale Owens filed this report from Brewarrina.
TAMARA BONEY: And we came home on the Saturday morning and they were sitting there in the kitchen, they were drinking a can of Jack Daniels.
ADAM HARVEY, REPORTER: An 18-year-old woman was killed in this house during a party on Anzac Day.
Tamara Boney was one of the last to see her alive.
TAMARA BONEY: They were just all in the lounge room after that, after we had a munch and stuff and then we were all dancing and that was it.
ADAM HARVEY: Police say the young mother was bashed to death by her boyfriend.
Her family has asked us not to name her or show her photograph for cultural reasons.
TAMARA BONEY: I went for a walk and then I came back and I saw the police car down, out the front there and then – and then it was like, “What’s happening in the street?” And then saw my Auntie walking down the street (becoming emotional) and that’s when she told me that she’d died.
ADAM HARVEY: The young victim and her boyfriend were both using the drug ice.
The death has devastated a tiny community plagued by domestic violence and drugs.
On the wettest day in years, locals rallied to say: enough.
TRISH FRAIL: It’s starting to get that way now that, within the Aboriginal community, people believe that it’s cultural, and so they’re accepting domestic violence. And so we’ve got to get that message back out there to say, “No, it’s not a part of our culture.”
ADAM HARVEY: Trish Frail is a community leader in Brewarrina who helped organise the rally.
TRISH FRAIL: People are now more interested in that drugs than their family and their culture, and scoring and selling, that’s what everybody thinks of nowadays.
ADAM HARVEY: Ice, the crystallised form of methamphetamine, is now the drug of choice in remote Indigenous communities.
DEE KENNEDY: I was sort of hurt by a stranger, but the stranger was my partner I’d lived with for 18 years. He wasn’t himself and I think it’s a lot to do with that drug.
ADAM HARVEY: For Dee Kennedy, ice turned a volatile relationship into a vicious one. Both she and her partner were using the drug.
DEE KENNEDY: The worst for us was the arguments, like, who was this person? I’d scream and yell obscenities at my partner like I hated him.
ADAM HARVEY: They were also spending all their spare cash on ice.
DEE KENNEDY: At Christmas time, there wasn’t as many things under the tree as there were the previous years before and we’ve always had big Christmas’ and just – yeah, just the presents, it wasn’t as much as …
ADAM HARVEY: ‘Cause the money was gone.
DEE KENNEDY: The money was gone, yep.
ADAM HARVEY: On New Year’s Eve, her teeth were knocked out in a brutal fight with her partner.
Do you mind showing me what happened? I know you – and that was New Year’s Eve.
DEE KENNEDY: Yep.
ADAM HARVEY: Was that your rock bottom?
DEE KENNEDY: Yep, I think.
ADAM HARVEY: And you’re not angry with your partner about this?
DEE KENNEDY: Initially I was and I sucker punched him the next morning in the nose and made his eyes water. But, you know, it’s important to talk about it because a lot of people are doing it, they don’t realise just how savage, you know, it makes their lives.
ADAM HARVEY: Dee and her partner Chris have not used ice for four months and the pair have joined the campaign for change. But in Brewarrina, the violence and injuries seem unstoppable.
AHMED HOSNI, GP AND EMERGENCY DOCTOR: So we get fractured ribs, fractured shoulders, various types of fractures, dislocations, head injuries.
ADAM HARVEY: Ahmed Hosni sees the brutal reality of domestic violence. For the past two years, he’s been the town’s only doctor.
AHMED HOSNI: I believe that it’s a great per cent of the homes here in Brewarrina which experienced domestic violence in the last year. I would say it’s more than half. It’s very, very bad here. I couldn’t imagine I will find it like that. And I believe it’s – it has something to do with drug and alcohol as well. For some reason, I don’t know why, ice and speed are exceptionally very, very high in this town.
ADAM HARVEY: Now the doctor routinely asks all patients about their use of ice.
AHMED HOSNI: I believe that at least 50 per cent of my patients, they say yes, we took it yesterday or the day before. And …
ADAM HARVEY: 50 per cent of your patients have taken ice in the last 48 hours?
AHMED HOSNI: Yes.
ERNIE GORDON: It’s more fearsome now than what alcohol was. I see there’s more things where when a bloke bashes his woman, he bashes – he completely bashes, he don’t just give here one punch and then walk away.
ADAM HARVEY: Ernie is a recovering alcoholic and admits he used to beat his wife, Chrissie.
ERNIE GORDON: At some point in my time, mate, I was a real big drinker.
ADAM HARVEY: How much would u drink in a session?
ERNIE GORDON: I’d drink a couple of cartons.
CHRISSIE GORDON: But if I knew he was drinking or ya didn’t come home from work and went to the pub, I packed my kids up at night and we’d go and stay with friends.
ADAM HARVEY: Ernie, what was the worst thing u did to Chrissie?
ERNIE GORDON: Punch her. I knew I’d done the wrong thing ’cause she got a scar there on her lip there. I cut her lip. Man, the next day when I sobered up and I seen it, I felt that big, look – I felt that small but. Like, the woman that I loved, I punched her. I punched her in rage. It wasn’t me, it was something else.
ADAM HARVEY: Ernie has seen close up how ice escalates domestic violence. His son used the drug.
ERNIE GORDON: The way I see it, it turn people into demons. Like, when I look at them fellas like there, they’re like the devil. There’s something inside ’em. They’re not the same people,
ADAM HARVEY: This isn’t just Brewarrina’s problem. There are no country towns that are unaffected by drugs or violence. And this place has always had its share of troubles. But ice is relatively new here. It has grabbed people tighter and brought them down faster than anything that’s come before. It amplifies violence, it’s killing hope and it’s driving away some of the people best placed to help.
AHMED HOSNI: It’s of course – of course it’s very stressful and I don’t imagine myself working in this town for more than two years. I work here two years already and this is too much. I had enough. I can’t – I can’t cope more.
TRISH FRAIL: My car had recently been stolen and to me it was just like, “Oh, had enough, I want out.” And unfortunately, parts of me want out and the others parts of me want to stay because I just so love my community and I really do want to stay here and work with ’em, but I don’t know what I’m gonna do.
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