MICHAEL BRISSENDEN from the AM Program Reports : Aboriginal and community leaders in the New South Wales town of Wellington say the arrest yesterday of two suspected ice dealers is proof the community is fighting back against the scourge of the drug.
Wellington embraced the “Dob in a Dealer” program in the face of widespread crystal methamphetamine use and negative publicity about the town.
While the program is having a demonstrable effect on drug dealing in the town, community leaders says it’s also revitalised and empowered the community.
David Mark reports from Wellington.
DAVID MARK: Walking down a street in Wellington, the thing Zeke Shaw notices is just how quiet it is.
ZEKE SHAW: Any other given Tuesday before we, you know, we implemented the program you’d see a wealth of activity.
Someone on the corner perhaps and shouting out. And then I guess another person. And next minute you’d have this really irate dialogue happening.
DAVID MARK: The Aboriginal community liaison officer with the New South Wales Police at Wellington is talking about the drug ice, which was having a devastating effect on the town in the Central West of New South Wales.
Aboriginal elder, Janet Henman:
JANET HENMAN: Well, you’ve just got to look around and see the mothers, the fathers, you know, and the people, they just look terrible.
DAVID MARK: But Wellington’s changed dramatically in just three months.
The community is fighting back against the drug dealers in town.
JANET HENMAN: We knew who they are and you never used to be able to say something, you know. But people are sick of it and they are coming out and dobbing in a dealer.
DAVID MARK: That’s what they call the program.
Sick of the drug, sick of the effect it was having on families, sick of the nickname Little Antarctica because of the amount of ice in town, the community decided to take a stand.
Alison Conn is the manager of Wellington Information and Neighbourhood Services.
Along with Zeke Shaw, Aboriginal leaders and the local police, she’s one of the driving forces behind the Dob in a Dealer program.
ALISON CONN: Dobbing in has been traditionally a really bad thing in our community. But these people are hurting our families, they’re hurting our people.
ZEKE SHAW: Which then has a spiral effect…
DAVID MARK: Zeke Shaw.
ZEKE SHAW: …of negative connotations such as, you know, your children aren’t being looked after properly, you know.
And then food – just the basic things like food, electricity and water – all of those things are being challenged because, you know, drugs and alcohol and mental health issues now take priority.
ALISON CONN: So it’s about time we stood up as a community and said stop hurting my family.
DAVID MARK: Dob in a dealer is simply a campaign encouraging people to call the police and to report what they know about drug dealing and other crimes.
ALISON CONN: We’re now seeing 45 active cases with the police as a result of the Dob in a Dealer campaign directly.
There’s already been four people prosecuted on drug supply and one person on firearms already as a result of this campaign.
DAVID MARK: Just yesterday police searched two houses in Wellington and found ice in both.
They arrested one women on drug charges, while another has been summonsed to face court.
ZEKE SHAW: People are saying, hang on for a minute, there’s not so many movements now, there’s not so many cars up in that street, or no-one’s knocking on those doors in the wee hours of the morning.
So people are actually giving us that feedback.
DAVID MARK: And what does that mean?
ZEKE SHAW: Well it means hope. It’s revitalised the community.
They’re now saying hang on for a minute, we have an opportunity to express our voices and it is being heard.
ALISON CONN: We run a youth service here and when kids come in and say, hey, where can I get my drugs, can’t get any, that’s a great outcome for us.
DAVID MARK: Alison Conn and Zeke Shaw say there’s a wider lesson here for the Australian community.
ALISON CONN: It has to be community driven. Governments can’t stand up there and say this is what you should be doing. The community needs to come from the bottom up and say this is what we want to do.
And when the community does that and we support that as a community, then that’s where the changes happen.
ZEKE SHAW: It’s actually generating a huge big spark in a positive direction of the way people are thinking in this community.
They no longer have to now sit back and say, oh hang on for a minute, we need to be dictated to by government.
No, no, no, no. We’re happy to share that journey with government.
DAVID MARK: Dobbing in the dealers is just the start.