NACCHO ICE NEWS: Communities like Yarrabah leading the way to stop ice epidemic


In the north Queensland town of Yarrabah we covered another essential response to ice: mobilisation of the community. No amount of policing can succeed without the vigilance and co-operation of locals.

Last week The Australian documented the scourge of the drug ice and foreshadowed a national attempt to deal with it.

” Ice is not only an inner-city affliction and so we reported on its swift invasion of communities in the far west of NSW. Last October Marcia Langton, an Aboriginal academic from the University of Melbourne, warned of “a youth epidemic” of ice usage and “organised drug-dealing syndicates” in remote Aboriginal communities. “

Ice, or crystal methamphetamine, has been linked to psychosis and senseless violence; it is clearly a factor in recent horrific cases of domestic violence. It’s estimated that usage of ice has more than doubled in recent years; about 200,000 Australians are thought to have tried it in the past 12 months. Despite record seizures and arrests, the street price of this drug has been stable or falling. It is tenaciously addictive. Community leaders in western NSW acknowledge that alcohol is still the dominant problem but they say that ice appears to inflict serious damage more quickly than any other drug.

It is also emerging as a road safety issue. As we report today, almost every second driver pulled over by police in Wagga Wagga, NSW, in July was under the influence of ice or other drugs. Across NSW this year, one in every 15 drivers tested positive for drugs such as cannabis, methamphetamine or MDMA, the drug class that includes ecstasy. Similar figures have been reported by South Australia and Victoria in recent years. In the ACT, almost one in six drivers tested positive for drugs last year. These are much higher rates than for drink-driving which, after years of campaigns, ranges across the country from one in every 76 drivers to one in 567. Many innocent lives are at risk. As NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione says: “For motorists in NSW to know they are sharing roads with people who are high on ice and who have absolutely no control over what they are doing is the most frightening aspect of this.”

A national taskforce on ice, led by former Victoria Police chief commissioner Ken Lay, is due to hand down its findings within weeks. Set up by Tony Abbott, it will become the responsibility of the new Turnbull government. As this newspaper reported yesterday, the taskforce is expected to document the failure of attempts to interrupt the supply of ice across Australia. The likely response will be an attempt to reduce demand by targeting addicts through increased treatment options, education and other support strategies.

Education and rehabilitation are obviously important elements in any successful strategy, but it is reassuring to see federal Justice Minister Michael Keenan stressing the role of better law enforcement. “The most important response is always the law enforcement response,” he said. “We want to find the people who are peddling it, we want to lock them up.”

Locals in Brewarrina, the NSW outback town where there have been several ice-related deaths this year, had complained that dealers had been targeting children without any police intervention. Local police insist they have been doing their job.

In the north Queensland town of Yarrabah we covered another essential response to ice: mobilisation of the community. No amount of policing can succeed without the vigilance and co-operation of locals.

Many of the stop signs in Yarrabah aren’t just there for motorists.

“Stop Ice,” the graffitied signs read.

The highly addictive drug – and its potential toll on youth – is a fresh threat to the small far north Queensland indigenous community already battling alcohol and tobacco dependency.

But locals are trying everything they can to make sure it doesn’t get a stranglehold.

Staff from the Gindaja Treatment and Healing Indigenous Corporation have been knocking on doors since Wednesday and taking surveys to gauge how much of a toll the illicit substance is taking.

It’s the first step in getting some hard data for service providers, who have until now relied partially on rumours circulating within the community of less than 2500.

The corporation’s Greg Fourmile told AAP results from the first two days of surveys confirmed what rehab workers had suspected – ice usage is on the rise.

Gindaja chief executive Ailsa Lively knew of three users in the town a year-and-a-half ago, but estimates there are now up to 40, with around half that number confirmed in the first days of surveying.

She’s even heard of a 14-year-old using.

The oldest was in their 30s.

Acting Senior Sergeant Andrew Pool hadn’t heard of juveniles taking the drug but said young males were the main risk takers.

Police have seized small quantities of the drug in the community and made a number of arrests thanks to local tip offs.

But the problem is far less widespread than in nearby Cairns, thanks in part to an extremely strong anti-ice sentiment, Act Sen Sgt Pool said.

“A lot of the stop signs in Yarrabah have been graffitied with `Ice’ under it,” he told AAP.

“I think that’s a really positive visual image that the community’s not hiding from it.”

It’s thought most users get their drugs 50 minutes away in Cairns but police also have their ear to the ground for murmurings of local cooks.

Stopping the inflow from Cairns completely will be a challenge for the community, with many residents regularly switching between the two locations.

“A few members have identified family who have moved out (of Yarrabah) and brought it (ice) back when they were visiting,” Mr Fourmile told AAP.

Ice use in indigenous communities has become a high-profile topic, with a number of leaders speaking out about the issue.

Last week, Queensland MP Billy Gordon went public about losing an uncle and a 22-year-old cousin to ice-related suicides and called on governments to “get their hands dirty” and increase funding for mental health services.

The comments were made at a meeting with police and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services, which called for more funding to indigenous organisations to address the issue with culturally appropriate programs.

While no one knows for sure which Queensland communities are worst affected, Dr Mark Wenitong from the Apunipima Cape York Health Council said it was expected towns near mines and regional centres would have the biggest problems.

One such community is Aurukun, where Mayor Derek Walpo is concerned the drug is flowing in from nearby mining town Weipa.

He’s been distributing flyers and posters around his locality in an effort to get through to the town’s youth before a major problem takes hold.

Further south in Yarrabah, mayor Errol Neal, believes the extent of the Ice problem has been exaggerated.

But, in saying that, he realises the importance of nipping it in the bud.

His council will join the Gindaja Treatment and Healing, local health groups and community members next week for a march through the town’s main street that hopes to draw attention to the possible havoc ice could wreak.

“We have got to address this issue and make sure it doesn’t creep out of control,” he said.

Of all the addictions that have plagued his people, Winston Prior, from Yarrabah in north Queensland, has never seen anything as evil and as quick to take hold as the drug ice.

The heroin addict turned youth advocate fears the same demons that have flourished on generational alcohol and drug dependence are finding new strength in Australia’s vulnerable indigenous communities.

He was among the community leaders who yesterday marched through Yarrabah, united in purpose, waving banners and crying out, “ice is not welcome in our community” and “dob a dealer, save our kids”.

Earlier this year, The Australian revealed an army of indigenous leaders were banding together to try to prevent ice from becoming entrenched in areas such as Cape York where early evidence of growing crystal methamphetamine use had prompted a call to action.

Mr Prior, who struggled with heroin and speed addiction for 24 years and has been clean for eight, said the tentacles of the insidious drug had well and truly reached the far corners of the country.

Just days ago, having returned from time away in Proserpine, Mr Prior went to a relative’s home in search of borrowed jumper leads only to find his treasured nephew and friends sitting in a paddock, “cleaning the pipe (used to smoke ice) out”. He recently visited the troubled community of Aurukun where he said dealers from Cairns and locals were literally giving children large quantities of the drug in the hope they would ­become sellers.

“They (the children) are going to make it good the first time and bring the money back,” Mr Prior said

“The second time the drug is going to be too good for them so they are going to start stealing … they will start doing stuff for (ice) … it’s a circle, a circle you have to break.”

During his darker days, Mr Prior “touched” ice for a time, barely slept for more than 30 days, dismissed the drug sores which looked like he had been “in a swamp full of bloody mosquitoes and march flies” on his face as “pimples”, alienated his family and committed crime after crime to feed his habit.

Now, having found Christian faith and living a happy life with his wife and four “adopted” children, Mr Prior is “very remorseful” for his past crimes and wouldn’t wish ice addiction on his “worst enemy”.

But while he managed to break free, he believes the mammoth feat is beyond the reach of the next generation if the scourge is not immediately addressed. He wants community elders to take kids out bush and teach “traditional ways of hunting and gathering”, and for community leaders to offer incentives such as free barbecues and working bees at the local basketball courts to “give them purpose and a reason to keep the place clean”.

“These children in all our communities, what are they doing? They are not going to school … they end up incarcerated or jobless. They need something to do. If this drug takes hold for good, our problems with marijuana and alcohol won’t be anything compared to what will happen to us then.”

NACCHO Ice News: Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think


“This gives us an insight that goes much deeper than the need to understand addicts. Professor Peter Cohen argues that human beings have a deep need to bond and form connections. It’s how we get our satisfaction. If we can’t connect with each other, we will connect with anything we can find — the whirr of a roulette wheel or the prick of a syringe. He says we should stop talking about ‘addiction’ altogether, and instead call it ‘bonding.’ A heroin addict has bonded with heroin because she couldn’t bond as fully with anything else.

So the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection”

NACCHO NOTE: This article has been published for discussion purposes only and is not a medical publication:

All previous articles about Ice in Aboriginal communities can be found here

It is now one hundred years since drugs were first banned — and all through this long century of waging war on drugs, we have been told a story about addiction by our teachers and by our governments. This story is so deeply ingrained in our minds that we take it for granted. It seems obvious. It seems manifestly true. Until I set off three and a half years ago on a 30,000-mile journey for my new book, Chasing The Scream: The First And Last Days of the War on Drugs, to figure out what is really driving the drug war, I believed it too. But what I learned on the road is that almost everything we have been told about addiction is wrong — and there is a very different story waiting for us, if only we are ready to hear it.

If we truly absorb this new story, we will have to change a lot more than the drug war. We will have to change ourselves.

I learned it from an extraordinary mixture of people I met on my travels. From the surviving friends of Billie Holiday, who helped me to learn how the founder of the war on drugs stalked and helped to kill her. From a Jewish doctor who was smuggled out of the Budapest ghetto as a baby, only to unlock the secrets of addiction as a grown man. From a transsexual crack dealer in Brooklyn who was conceived when his mother, a crack-addict, was raped by his father, an NYPD officer. From a man who was kept at the bottom of a well for two years by a torturing dictatorship, only to emerge to be elected President of Uruguay and to begin the last days of the war on drugs.

I had a quite personal reason to set out for these answers. One of my earliest memories as a kid is trying to wake up one of my relatives, and not being able to. Ever since then, I have been turning over the essential mystery of addiction in my mind — what causes some people to become fixated on a drug or a behavior until they can’t stop? How do we help those people to come back to us? As I got older, another of my close relatives developed a cocaine addiction, and I fell into a relationship with a heroin addict. I guess addiction felt like home to me.

If you had asked me what causes drug addiction at the start, I would have looked at you as if you were an idiot, and said: “Drugs. Duh.” It’s not difficult to grasp. I thought I had seen it in my own life. We can all explain it. Imagine if you and I and the next twenty people to pass us on the street take a really potent drug for twenty days. There are strong chemical hooks in these drugs, so if we stopped on day twenty-one, our bodies would need the chemical. We would have a ferocious craving. We would be addicted. That’s what addiction means.

One of the ways this theory was first established is through rat experiments — ones that were injected into the American psyche in the 1980s, in a famous advert by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. You may remember it. The experiment is simple. Put a rat in a cage, alone, with two water bottles. One is just water. The other is water laced with heroin or cocaine. Almost every time you run this experiment, the rat will become obsessed with the drugged water, and keep coming back for more and more, until it kills itself.

The advert explains: “Only one drug is so addictive, nine out of ten laboratory rats will use it. And use it. And use it. Until dead. It’s called cocaine. And it can do the same thing to you.”

But in the 1970s, a professor of Psychology in Vancouver called Bruce Alexander noticed something odd about this experiment. The rat is put in the cage all alone. It has nothing to do but take the drugs. What would happen, he wondered, if we tried this differently? So Professor Alexander built Rat Park. It is a lush cage where the rats would have colored balls and the best rat-food and tunnels to scamper down and plenty of friends: everything a rat about town could want. What, Alexander wanted to know, will happen then?

In Rat Park, all the rats obviously tried both water bottles, because they didn’t know what was in them. But what happened next was startling.

The rats with good lives didn’t like the drugged water. They mostly shunned it, consuming less than a quarter of the drugs the isolated rats used. None of them died. While all the rats who were alone and unhappy became heavy users, none of the rats who had a happy environment did.

At first, I thought this was merely a quirk of rats, until I discovered that there was — at the same time as the Rat Park experiment — a helpful human equivalent taking place. It was called the Vietnam War. Time magazine reported using heroin was “as common as chewing gum” among U.S. soldiers, and there is solid evidence to back this up: some 20 percent of U.S. soldiers had become addicted to heroin there, according to a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry. Many people were understandably terrified; they believed a huge number of addicts were about to head home when the war ended.

But in fact some 95 percent of the addicted soldiers — according to the same study — simply stopped. Very few had rehab. They shifted from a terrifying cage back to a pleasant one, so didn’t want the drug any more.

Professor Alexander argues this discovery is a profound challenge both to the right-wing view that addiction is a moral failing caused by too much hedonistic partying, and the liberal view that addiction is a disease taking place in a chemically hijacked brain. In fact, he argues, addiction is an adaptation. It’s not you. It’s your cage.

After the first phase of Rat Park, Professor Alexander then took this test further. He reran the early experiments, where the rats were left alone, and became compulsive users of the drug. He let them use for fifty-seven days — if anything can hook you, it’s that. Then he took them out of isolation, and placed them in Rat Park. He wanted to know, if you fall into that state of addiction, is your brain hijacked, so you can’t recover? Do the drugs take you over? What happened is — again — striking. The rats seemed to have a few twitches of withdrawal, but they soon stopped their heavy use, and went back to having a normal life. The good cage saved them. (The full references to all the studies I am discussing are in the book.)

When I first learned about this, I was puzzled. How can this be? This new theory is such a radical assault on what we have been told that it felt like it could not be true. But the more scientists I interviewed, and the more I looked at their studies, the more I discovered things that don’t seem to make sense — unless you take account of this new approach.

Here’s one example of an experiment that is happening all around you, and may well happen to you one day. If you get run over today and you break your hip, you will probably be given diamorphine, the medical name for heroin. In the hospital around you, there will be plenty of people also given heroin for long periods, for pain relief. The heroin you will get from the doctor will have a much higher purity and potency than the heroin being used by street-addicts, who have to buy from criminals who adulterate it. So if the old theory of addiction is right — it’s the drugs that cause it; they make your body need them — then it’s obvious what should happen. Loads of people should leave the hospital and try to score smack on the streets to meet their habit.

But here’s the strange thing: It virtually never happens. As the Canadian doctor Gabor Mate was the first to explain to me, medical users just stop, despite months of use. The same drug, used for the same length of time, turns street-users into desperate addicts and leaves medical patients unaffected.

If you still believe — as I used to — that addiction is caused by chemical hooks, this makes no sense. But if you believe Bruce Alexander’s theory, the picture falls into place. The street-addict is like the rats in the first cage, isolated, alone, with only one source of solace to turn to. The medical patient is like the rats in the second cage. She is going home to a life where she is surrounded by the people she loves. The drug is the same, but the environment is different.

This gives us an insight that goes much deeper than the need to understand addicts. Professor Peter Cohen argues that human beings have a deep need to bond and form connections. It’s how we get our satisfaction. If we can’t connect with each other, we will connect with anything we can find — the whirr of a roulette wheel or the prick of a syringe. He says we should stop talking about ‘addiction’ altogether, and instead call it ‘bonding.’ A heroin addict has bonded with heroin because she couldn’t bond as fully with anything else.

So the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection.

When I learned all this, I found it slowly persuading me, but I still couldn’t shake off a nagging doubt. Are these scientists saying chemical hooks make no difference? It was explained to me — you can become addicted to gambling, and nobody thinks you inject a pack of cards into your veins. You can have all the addiction, and none of the chemical hooks. I went to a Gamblers’ Anonymous meeting in Las Vegas (with the permission of everyone present, who knew I was there to observe) and they were as plainly addicted as the cocaine and heroin addicts I have known in my life. Yet there are no chemical hooks on a craps table.

But still, surely, I asked, there is some role for the chemicals? It turns out there is an experiment which gives us the answer to this in quite precise terms, which I learned about in Richard DeGrandpre’s book The Cult of Pharmacology.

Everyone agrees cigarette smoking is one of the most addictive processes around. The chemical hooks in tobacco come from a drug inside it called nicotine. So when nicotine patches were developed in the early 1990s, there was a huge surge of optimism — cigarette smokers could get all of their chemical hooks, without the other filthy (and deadly) effects of cigarette smoking. They would be freed.

But the Office of the Surgeon General has found that just 17.7 percent of cigarette smokers are able to stop using nicotine patches. That’s not nothing. If the chemicals drive 17.7 percent of addiction, as this shows, that’s still millions of lives ruined globally. But what it reveals again is that the story we have been taught about The Cause of Addiction lying with chemical hooks is, in fact, real, but only a minor part of a much bigger picture.

This has huge implications for the one-hundred-year-old war on drugs. This massive war — which, as I saw, kills people from the malls of Mexico to the streets of Liverpool — is based on the claim that we need to physically eradicate a whole array of chemicals because they hijack people’s brains and cause addiction. But if drugs aren’t the driver of addiction — if, in fact, it is disconnection that drives addiction — then this makes no sense.

Ironically, the war on drugs actually increases all those larger drivers of addiction. For example, I went to a prison in Arizona — ‘Tent City’ — where inmates are detained in tiny stone isolation cages (‘The Hole’) for weeks and weeks on end to punish them for drug use. It is as close to a human recreation of the cages that guaranteed deadly addiction in rats as I can imagine. And when those prisoners get out, they will be unemployable because of their criminal record — guaranteeing they with be cut off even more. I watched this playing out in the human stories I met across the world.

There is an alternative. You can build a system that is designed to help drug addicts to reconnect with the world — and so leave behind their addictions.

This isn’t theoretical. It is happening. I have seen it. Nearly fifteen years ago, Portugal had one of the worst drug problems in Europe, with 1 percent of the population addicted to heroin. They had tried a drug war, and the problem just kept getting worse. So they decided to do something radically different. They resolved to decriminalize all drugs, and transfer all the money they used to spend on arresting and jailing drug addicts, and spend it instead on reconnecting them — to their own feelings, and to the wider society. The most crucial step is to get them secure housing, and subsidized jobs so they have a purpose in life, and something to get out of bed for. I watched as they are helped, in warm and welcoming clinics, to learn how to reconnect with their feelings, after years of trauma and stunning them into silence with drugs.

One example I learned about was a group of addicts who were given a loan to set up a removals firm. Suddenly, they were a group, all bonded to each other, and to the society, and responsible for each other’s care.

The results of all this are now in. An independent study by the British Journal of Criminology found that since total decriminalization, addiction has fallen, and injecting drug use is down by 50 percent. I’ll repeat that: injecting drug use is down by 50 percent. Decriminalization has been such a manifest success that very few people in Portugal want to go back to the old system. The main campaigner against the decriminalization back in 2000 was Joao Figueira, the country’s top drug cop. He offered all the dire warnings that we would expect from the Daily Mail or Fox News. But when we sat together in Lisbon, he told me that everything he predicted had not come to pass — and he now hopes the whole world will follow Portugal’s example.

This isn’t only relevant to the addicts I love. It is relevant to all of us, because it forces us to think differently about ourselves. Human beings are bonding animals. We need to connect and love. The wisest sentence of the twentieth century was E.M. Forster’s — “only connect.” But we have created an environment and a culture that cut us off from connection, or offer only the parody of it offered by the Internet. The rise of addiction is a symptom of a deeper sickness in the way we live — constantly directing our gaze towards the next shiny object we should buy, rather than the human beings all around us.

The writer George Monbiot has called this “the age of loneliness.” We have created human societies where it is easier for people to become cut off from all human connections than ever before. Bruce Alexander — the creator of Rat Park — told me that for too long, we have talked exclusively about individual recovery from addiction. We need now to talk about social recovery — how we all recover, together, from the sickness of isolation that is sinking on us like a thick fog.

But this new evidence isn’t just a challenge to us politically. It doesn’t just force us to change our minds. It forces us to change our hearts.

Loving an addict is really hard. When I looked at the addicts I love, it was always tempting to follow the tough love advice doled out by reality shows like Intervention — tell the addict to shape up, or cut them off. Their message is that an addict who won’t stop should be shunned. It’s the logic of the drug war, imported into our private lives. But in fact, I learned, that will only deepen their addiction — and you may lose them altogether. I came home determined to tie the addicts in my life closer to me than ever — to let them know I love them unconditionally, whether they stop, or whether they can’t.

When I returned from my long journey, I looked at my ex-boyfriend, in withdrawal, trembling on my spare bed, and I thought about him differently. For a century now, we have been singing war songs about addicts. It occurred to me as I wiped his brow, we should have been singing love songs to them all along.

The full story of Johann Hari’s journey — told through the stories of the people he met — can be read in Chasing The Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, published by Bloomsbury. The book has been praised by everyone from Elton John to Glenn Greenwald to Naomi Klein. You can buy it at all good bookstores and read more at

Johann will be speaking on August 26th in Edinburgh, in early September in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, and in mid-September in Mexico City. For details of these events go to

The full references and sources for all the information cited in this article can be found in the book’s extensive end-notes.

If you would like more updates on the book and this issue, you can like the Facebook page:

NACCHO ICE DRUG NEWS : Is the Government’s ice advertising cutting through ?


Independent evaluation into the results of the Coalition Government’s ice advertising has heaped praise on the campaign.

Speaking ahead of the launch of the second instalment of the ads onto TV and social media tonight, Assistant Minister for Health Fiona Nash said the Stancombe research into the effect of the ads, commissioned by the Department of Health, spoke for itself.

PLAY THE ABOVE VIDEO /The research, along with help and information is available at the website.

Read all NACCHO previous ICE coverage here

Some 3805 people were surveyed about the ads: 2126 young people aged 14-25 and 1679 parents of young people aged 14-25.

“94 per cent of youth who saw the campaign said they’d taken some `action’ as a result – either by talking to peers or their parents, or by changing their thinking about ice,” Minister Nash said.

“51 per cent of at-risk youth who had seen the ads said they would now avoid using ice – a fantastic result.

“Furthermore, the report states ‘Parents who recognised the campaign were significantly more likely to have talked to their children about drugs’ (67 per cent compared to 52 per cent among those who did not see the ads) and that ‘This indicates that the campaign acted as a trigger for these conversations’,” Minister Nash said.

“Even better, 61 per cent of youth said discussions with parents were a ‘big influence’ on their thinking about drugs, and 49 per cent of youth said anti-drug advertising was also a ‘big influence’.

“Some 84 per cent of youth and 91 per cent of parents said the ads were ‘Believable’; 87 and 91 per cent respectively said the ads were effective at explaining how ice can harm 66 and 73 per cent said the ads made them ‘stop and think’ and 64 and 68 per cent said the ads taught them something new.

“Recognition of the advertising among youth considered to be ‘at-risk’ of accepting drug offers was a whopping 80 per cent.”

Some 53 per cent of youth and 56 per cent of parents recalled seeing advertising about illegal drugs this year – the highest result ever from National Drug Campaign research.

Also, 80 per cent of youth and 85 per cent of parents recalled that the advertising referred specifically to ice. The report states the evidence indicates a “very strong ‘cut-through’” from this advertising campaign and that the “messages around this specific drug are cutting through”.

On social media, 10 Facebook posts have reached nearly 13 million people; 15 tweets were seen by 2.73 million people and nine YouTube videos were seen by 4.25 million people.

“I’m so pleased the Coalition Government’s advertising campaign on ice has been so successful,” Minister Nash said.

I’m particularly pleased that it cut through to at-risk youth and is changing their attitudes to ice, reducing the chances of them ever starting to use this drug.

“I’ve always said this problem needed to be attacked from all angles – prevention, treatment and policing – and this independent research confirms this part of the Coalition’s prevention strategy is effective.

“Advertising alone will not fix the ice issue, but it’s an important plank in the platform.

“This new independent data makes a mockery of Labor’s decision to discontinue the ice advertising campaign in 2009. The use of ice doubled between 2010 and 2013.”

The second instalment of ads represents a $4.3 million investment.

The research, along with help and information is available at the website.

NACCHO Ice News :Ice problem in Canberra reaches crisis proportions, Indigenous health service says


‘Ice is devastating our communities’

I lost my business, I lost my wife and children,

After more than two years staying clean, I have continued to deal with a daily struggle.

I’m still battling, I still get urges to have ice, it’s everywhere, it’s hard,

Ice is destroying our communities, not just the Indigenous community, all communities.

Winnunga Nimmityjah-run men’s support group has been invaluable in his rehabilitation

A big thing about dealing with addiction is support and the men’s group is just that,

“They’re not judgemental, they’ve pretty much been through a battle just like you.”

Former methamphetamine user Micah Hill knows only too well the power of the drug ice.

Photo: Canberra man Micah Hill talks about his additcion to ice at a Winnunga Nimmityjah event. (ABC News: Greg Nelson)

We need more Aboriginal case workers and I need to triple my social health team if we’re going to be able to make a real difference.

Julie Tongs, Winnunga Nimmityjah Chief Executive

Crystal methamphetamine is having a dramatic impact on Canberra’s Indigenous community and experts have warned the problem is getting worse.

Canberra’s only indigenous health service said the ice problem in the ACT had reached crisis proportions.

Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service held a forum in Canberra on Tuesday to help the community better deal with the scourge.

The health service’s Chief Executive Julie Tongs said she had witnessed an enormous increase in the number of ice-affected clients over the past 18 months.

“Every day we see an ice-affected person at Winnunga, there’s often more than one, but we would have somebody probably have a psychotic episode here maybe every couple of days,” she said.

“We’ve always had a big intravenous drug problem in this community, but the impact of ice and the psychosis that it causes for people has been devastating.

“We’re seeing second and third generation users and these are the families that keep getting battered every time and they don’t have the resources to put their kids into private rehabs.”

Ms Tongs said the problem had become harder to manage.

“We have a very small waiting room and a lot of very sick people and people with multiple chronic diseases,” she said.

“We have around 1,900 clients with a diagnosed mental illness and some of them are also drug affected.

“We need more Aboriginal case workers and I need to triple my social health team if we’re going to be able to make a real difference.”

Family members looking for support at the forum were reminded of the value of their role in the rehabilitation process.

Victorian based drug rehabilitation trainer Kathleen Orr said rehabilitation education had been welcomed by family members.

“I think whenever a family member starts using drugs in a dangerous and addictive way the family members get an education that they didn’t want to have, but it’s going to be a useful thing because then they can be more supportive.”

NACCHO Ice News: PM announces ‘dob in a dealer’ national hotline to fight ice drug epidemic in our communities



Plans to establish a national ice hotline for people to dob in drug dealers and the locations of drug labs across the country have been announced by Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

The “Dob in a Dealer” campaign has been given $1 million in funding and is modelled on a similar program run by Crime Stoppers Victoria.

Read all previous ICE News and reports from NACCHO HERE

By ABC political reporter Matthew Doran  Originally published here

“[The Victorian program] as I understand it in different parts of the state has resulted in a 100 per cent to 400 per cent increase in information coming in about these drug dealers,” Mr Abbott said.

“Whether it’s overseas at source, whether it’s here on our border, or whether it’s in the community, we need to mobilise against drugs.

“There are no excuses for illegal drugs, no excuses.”

It is the latest Federal Government plan to tackle what it describes as the “growing scourge” of ice, or crystal methamphetamine, use around the county.

“We’re simply talking about giving people more opportunity and encouragement to do the right thing by our community,” Mr Abbott said.

“If you see criminal behaviour taking place, or if you suspect that criminal behaviour is taking place, you have a duty to do what you can.”

Earlier this year, Mr Abbott announced a national ice taskforce to help coordinate and assess local, state and federal government efforts to address the drug, and identify ways to improve education, health and law enforcement.

The Government said dobbing in dealers and ice manufacturers was a vital part of efforts to bust drug manufacturing and distribution.

Mandatory rehab needed: Xenophon

Independent South Australian senator Nick Xenophon said the hotline would not work effectively without mandatory rehabilitation being considered, similar to what was done in Sweden.

“I want more than just a start, I actually want a resolution of this issue,” he said.

“If you want to tackle it effectively, you need to have a system where there is mandatory rehab.

“There ought to be a system in place where [addicts] can be assessed in terms of an intervention.”

Senator Xenophon said drug dealers dobbed in should also have their assets seized if the authorities really wanted to make a dent in supply.

“We need to have a national conversation about extending the proceeds of crime legislation in this country, and that would involve seizing all the assets of the Mr and Ms Bigs of the drug trade in this country.”

The Prime Minister has also foreshadowed more announcements in coming weeks, including legislation dealing with people who have “unexplained wealth” that may be proceeds of crime.

The Federal Opposition said the hotline was a waste of money.

“Any idea that’s designed to improve measures to try and tackle what is a horrible problem, the problem of ice, and to tackle those that are the drug dealers, and those that are profiting from it, is an idea worthy of consideration,” Senator Sam Dastyari said.

“But from the information I’ve seen, this smacks of a desperate stunt from a government looking for distraction.

“I thought there already was a hotline where you dob in a dealer, and that hotline is triple 0 … the police.”

Lambie calls for more parental power

Last week, Independent Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie revealed her son’s ice addiction in a speech to Parliament.

“I am a senator of Australia and I have a 21-year-old son that has a problem with ice, and yet even with my title I have no control over my son,” she said.

“I can’t involuntarily detox my own son, because I am not talking to my son anymore, I’m talking to a drug.

“And I can tell you, I’m not the only parent out there. There is [sic] thousands of us.”

However those calls for mandatory drug treatment were rejected by experts


More info and Registrations here



NACCHO Ice NEWS: Qld Aboriginal and Islander health sector welcomes COAG ICE action

“In Queensland anecdotal evidence suggests that in some places methamphetamine use is ripping our communities apart. Our local communities and community-controlled health sector and residential rehabilitation service members, need support and opportunities to partner with government and non-government organisations in order to be proactive and to get on top of this issue before it grows any larger.

Sandy Gillies from the Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council (QAIHC).

Queensland’s peak Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health body has strongly welcomed the COAG communique on a National Ice Action Strategy released yesterday.

“Our communities across Australia are being challenged daily from increased use of this drug and we are pleased that COAG has recognized the urgency of a response,” said Sandy Gillies from the Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council (QAIHC).


“We need a comprehensive national strategy to deal with rising rates of ICE use and I think the Communique and its “six areas of action” indicates that COAG has got the priorities right. “These six areas mirror the key priorities determined by QAIHC in a document we provided to the Queensland Government some weeks ago,” she said. QAIHC’s Ice options paper identified the following key priorities:

  • Dedicated research into the nature, prevalence and culture of methamphetamine use in Queensland Indigenous communities.
  • A coordinated and resourced Indigenous ICE prevention strategy.
  • A specially designed state-wide media information campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of ICE in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
  • Improved training for an ICE (poly drug) competent, confident and connected workforce across the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector.
  • Specialist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander detox and treatment services including residential rehabilitation facilities.

Ms Gillies said the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled health sector and residential rehabilitation service are best placed to develop and implement local initiatives with the committed support of Government and key stakeholders.

“In Queensland anecdotal evidence suggests that in some places methamphetamine use is ripping our communities apart. Our local communities and community-controlled health sector and residential rehabilitation service members, need support and opportunities to partner with government and non-government organisations in order to be proactive and to get on top of this issue before it grows any larger.

QAIHC is organising a Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ICE Roundtable on 11 September in Brisbane to further develop a state-wide response to growing ICE use and its effects on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities.

Ms Gillies said the roundtable will identify local community initiatives which contribute to evidence and address the harmful effects of ICE.

Frontline Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and drug and alcohol rehabilitation services, state and Federal politicians, the Queensland Police Service, Queensland Health and specialist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health researchers will be invited to participate and provide input towards a robust and inclusive state wide response.

The drug ICE will also be on the agenda at the NACCHO National Male Health Ochre Day Summit

Register now HERE



NACCHO NEWS: National Ice Taskforce present its interim report


There is so much of the drug ice in the town of Wellington, in central NSW, that it has earned the unenviable nickname of “The South Pole”.

As the National Ice Taskforce hands down its interim report into the damage done by the drug, the ABC’s 7.30 program visited one of the places worst hit — the small town of 4,500 people, just five hours’ drive west of Sydney.

Locals said the drug was wreaking havoc on their community and they were determined to take matters into their own hands, including launching community campaigns urging residents to “dob in a dealer”, even though that means pointing the finger at friends, family or neighbours.

See ABC 7.30 transcript below WATCH VIDEO

This week Sydney, the Taskforce members presented their interim report on the use and impacts of crystal methamphetamine (ice) on the Australian community to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).  The interim report provides COAG leaders with the Taskforce’s initial analysis of this complex issue, an overview of existing efforts and gaps to tackle the problem, and advice about what more needs to be done.

The Prime Minister, all Premiers and Chief Ministers, and the President of the Australian Local Government Association noted the interim report, which was shaped by the experiences and advice the Taskforce heard from its many discussions held across Australia. Read the outcomes of the meeting here .

The feedback received from the Australian community paints a worrying picture about the impact of ice.  During its consultations the Taskforce heard from many experts and community members who are concerned about the impact of ice and received over 1300 written submissions.

The Taskforce has identified six areas for action where they believe more work needs to be done by all governments, and where the greatest benefits can be gained to assist ice users, their families, communities and the workforce to tackle this complex problem.

These six areas are:

  1. Target primary prevention
  2. Improve access to early intervention, treatment and support services
  3. Support local communities to respond
  4. Improve tools for frontline workers
  5. Focus law enforcement actions
  6. Improve and consolidate research and data

These six areas will form the basis for the next phase of activity, as the Taskforce completes its final report to the Prime Minister and works with all governments to develop the National Ice Action Strategy.

The Strategy will comprise detailed initiatives under each of these areas, and will be brought back to COAG for endorsement before the end of this year.

The Taskforce would like to thank the many Australians who have taken the time to share their experiences and expertise, through both the written submissions process and the consultations the Taskforce, Ministers and Members of Parliament have held with communities around Australia.

Additional Resources

Fact sheets, further documents and a list of frequently asked questions and their answers are available on the further information page

Wellington, in central NSW, nicknamed ‘South Pole’ for alarming ice habit

There is so much of the drug ice in the town of Wellington, in central NSW, that it has earned the unenviable nickname of “The South Pole”.

As the National Ice Taskforce hands down its interim report into the damage done by the drug, the ABC’s 7.30 program visited one of the places worst hit — the small town of 4,500 people, just five hours’ drive west of Sydney.

Locals said the drug was wreaking havoc on their community and they were determined to take matters into their own hands, including launching community campaigns urging residents to “dob in a dealer”, even though that means pointing the finger at friends, family or neighbours.

“I really believe that it’s crippling our town,” local land council chief executive officer Leanne Stanley said.

“I see huge effects on our people, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.

“We all walk past drug dealers every day, we’re related to drug dealers, we have associations [with them].

“We love our people, we just don’t love what they do.

“They’re just so blinded by money, they’re blinded to the fact that they’re actually destroying people’s lives.”

Wellington local land council CEO Leanne Stanley.

Many of the dealers in town are local users who are paying for their own habit by supplying crystal methamphetamine.

The town’s senior policeman, Senior Sergeant Simon Madgwick, said he realised the “dob in a dealer” program would not solve the problem, but said it might buy the town’s users some time.

“Supply is the biggest issue,” Snr Sgt Madgwick said.

“If we can tackle the suppliers, hopefully, for those people using ice, if they can’t get ice, maybe they’ll seek help, get rehab, maybe seek the support of the community.”

Ice users can have ‘superhuman’ strength

The ABC’s cameras captured one incident that reflected the scale of the problem.

Police delayed a train in Wellington while they removed a man suspected of being under the influence of ice.

The aggressive, agitated man argued with police while officers searched his partner’s bag.

Senior Sergeant Simon Madgwick holds an anti-ice campaign poster.

They found a syringe and a small amount of the drug.

The woman had a serious eye injury and police allege she had been kicked in the head by her partner.

While police were distracted by the search, the man fled on foot and sparked a 24-hour manhunt involving police from two towns.

Subsequent checks revealed he was the subject of an apprehended violence order and police believe he had breached the conditions of that order.

He was eventually arrested in Dubbo and charged with assaulting his partner.

Sen Sgt Madgwick said the effects of ice were much worse than other drugs he had seen in the past.

“I’ve been a cop for 20 years, but when someone is under the influence of ice they can have a superhuman strength — so strong, so fast, so unpredictable, so aggressive,” he said.

“You need a number of police to bring them down, to take them down to the ground without resorting to OC [capsicum] spray.”

NACCHO Health News: Remote Aboriginal leaders in bid to avert ice crisis



An indigenous-led coalition of leaders and frontline health workers has launched a pre-­emptive strike to avert a socially catastrophic explosion of ice use in remote communities.

Mounting evidence of the increasing use of ice and related “psychotic episodes” in the past six months has sparked fears of a reversal of a decade of social improvements under alcohol bans.

PHOTO :Concerned about the ice threat are Jaidyn Yeatman, left, Jayden Kynuna and Thaddeaus Johnson at Yarrabah near Cairns. Picture: Brian Cassey Source: News Corp Australia (see their interview below)

PLEASE NOTE : NACCHO is in the process of organising a National Ice Forum here in Canberra during August : Details to be announced shortly

Forget jobs and land, ice is our big issue: MP Billy Gordon (see article Below)

Queensland’s Aboriginal mayors and indigenous-led health and social services are pushing for a zero-tolerance response to suppliers and are alread­y funding grassroots anti-ice campaigns.

Lockhardt River Mayor Wayne Butcher, the chairman of the Indigenous Leaders Forum, put the drugs threat on the top of the agenda at a meeting of mayors last month to ramp up the fight in collaboration with police, government and social services.

“We know the threat: it would destroy us, to be honest,” Mr Butcher said after a meeting. “There were 17 mayors of indigenous communities sitting around the table and I asked for a show of hands if they knew that ice was in their community, and nearly everyone put up their hand. It’s happened so quick. It seemed like a city problem but it has been sneaking into the communities.”

Several mayors are flagging a proposal to evict convicted suppliers of ice from public housing, with reports of at least one suspected dealer recently “chased out’’ of a community.

Queensland Police Commissioner Ian Stewart said vulnerable indigenous communities were at a social “tipping point” in a war on ice that he believes can only be won through “true collaboration” between communities, politicians and law enforcement.

“I am not saying it is epidemic yet but it has the potential,” Mr Stewart said. “If we don’t cover off before it starts we are all going to be in strife.”

Mr Stewart said he had been encouraged by the indigenous leadership in moving to face the threat. “We have actually got, in my humble opinion, some of the best thinkers and some of the most passionate mayors that we have had in our history,’’ he said.

Mr Stewart warned that the push against drug use also had to involve all members of the communities abandoning a traditional reticence to inform police of criminal activity in the tight-knit communities.

“Their responsibility is not just to talk about this … if they know stuff within their communities it will only work if they let us know, so we can go out and snuff these things out.’’

After a decade of leading the fight against indigenous social dysfunction, including the use of alcohol bans and tough welfare measures pushed by Noel Pearson, Cape York could set the model in the nationwide battle against ice.

Grassroots health groups such as the Apunipima Cape York Health Council are funding front-foot social-media and public-awareness campaigns.

Apunipima chief medical officer Mark Wenitong said: “We don’t actually get any substance-abuse funding or anything. We thought: ‘Well, we could sit around and wait for some funding to come through, wait for somebody else to do it, but let’s just start doing it.’ ”

The Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council has reported a “surge in demand’’ for ice-rehabilitation services, which have been cut in recent years.

The number of dedicated Aboriginal drug and alcohol services had been cut from 11 in 2011 to just five, with reduced state and federal funding.

QAIHC general manager of policy innovation and service development Sandy Gillies said governments needed to boost funding and support for her staff, who were “largely doing it alone’’. “There’s been a history of governments waiting for health crises to develop before responding and we are determined to be proactive this time,” she said.

“We have little experience and knowledge of this drug and are only just beginning to see the impact it is having on already high rates of family violence and incarceration.’’ Ms Gillies said QAIHC and its affiliate, the Queensland Indigenous Substance Misuse Council, would submit a policy paper to the state government that included a call for more training of its workers and increased rehabilitation funding.

Increased drug use, particularly with cannabis, appears to have been an unintended consequence of the introduction of alcohol management plans, from 2002.

Under AMPs, alcohol-related violence and injury fell to historically low levels within a few years. School attendance also jumped — helped along with more punitive measures against parents and guardians who failed to get their kids to class — and the chaotic scenes of public drunkenness subsided.

New research shows that in three AMP communities, two-thirds of males aged 14-47 and 30 per cent of females smoke marijuana on at least a weekly basis, with a large proportion dependent. Epidemiologist Alan Clough, who has been evaluating the impact of AMPs, said researchers found that cannabis use in the Northern Territory and far north Queensland communities became endemic within four years.

“A similar four-year window of opportunity may therefore be all that is available to reduce the impacts of ice if a demand for it increases,’’ Associate Professor Clough said. “The narrow window could be further reduced given the unknown impacts of this highly addictive drug.’’

In February, Yarrabah Mayor Errol Neal brought in ice experts for a special meeting he convened in the 2000-strong community, about 60km from Cairns, to “educate and warn’’ people about the drug. “We have to expose people early,” he said.

“Most people don’t know what it is or what it looks like but we have been told by our health workers and young people that it is here.

“We think it has had an effect, it seems to have died down a bit and there is a feeling of zero tolerance about (ice).’’

Mr Neal said various mayors had been discussing tough measures, including a proposal to evict anyone caught supplying the drug from public housing.

Forget jobs and land, ice is our big issue: MP Billy Gordon

Balance-of-power MP Billy Gordon is demanding the Palaszczuk minority government ramp up effor­ts to stem the spread of ice across Queensland’s Aboriginal communities.

The independent MP, who has supported the Labor government on most legislation, said increased rehabilitation and mental health funding and the need for an anti-ice campaign targeted specifically at indigenous youths was at the top of his policy agenda.

Mr Gordon, an indigenous MP with a sprawling electorate that covers Cape York Peninsula, said he met Health Minister Cameron Dick over his concerns after suspected ice-fuelled suicides in an Aboriginal community last month.

Queensland police, mayors and social workers have reported a spike in the use of ice throughout most of the state’s Aboriginal communities in the past year.

In a report in The Weekend Australian on the emerging threat of ice in the communities, Police Commissioner Ian Stewart and the Queensland Aboriginal and ­Islander Health Council called on state and federal governments to increase education and rehabilit­ation services.

The number of dedicated Aboriginal drug and alcohol services has been cut from 11 in 2011 to just five, with reduced state and federal funding.

Mr Gordon feared government would ignore the potential dangers of ice in isolated indigenous communities, which are already struggling with unemployment, welfare dependency and substance abuse.

“Drugs like ice that have such profound psychological effects on the user could destroy Aboriginal communities,’’ he said.

“It would chew them up and spit them out — it’s very scary and we have to do something now.

“Forget native title, forget employm­ent — the single biggest issue that I am worried about in communities is mental health and if ice really spreads then it will be devastating.’’

In a statement, Mr Dick said the state government was working on strategies to tackle ice across Queensland.

“The federal government has established a taskforce on ice and we want to make sure that there is no duplication of services between the state and federal government,” he said.

“This is also a matter which require­s a whole-of-govern­ment response, with other agencies such as the police and education and training authorities involved.’’

The 19 mayors of Queensland’s indigenous communities have also called for government to ramp up its efforts.

Errol Neal, Mayor of the 2000-strong community of Yarrabah, east of Cairns, said indigenous mayors had been discussing tough measures, including a proposal to evict from public housing anyone caught supplying the drug.

Yarrabah youths Jayden ­Kynuna, 22, Jaidyn Yeatman, 21, and Thaddeaus Johnson, 19 — who were educated outside their community but returned to work in local health and social services — said education about the dangers of the drug and “zero tolerance’’ could work. Mr Kynuna said many young people didn’t want a return to the “social dysfunction’’ that existed when the grog was flowing.

“It’s showing up at parties, ­people are bringing it from Cairns and (it’s) getting more popular, it’s scary,’’ he said.

“Some people who have been smoking the ganja say it’s no big deal, but they don’t know what they are talking about.

“We need to educate people, everyone, especially the schools, kids and people my age about what this drug can do.’’


NACCHO Health News: How can you take a stand against ice and domestic violence in our communities ?


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

What is the ice problem?,

How is the government combatting ice?

and National Ice Taskforce.

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.

Brewarrina GP Dr Ahmed Hosni said half his patients admitted to using ice.
Photo: Brewarrina GP Dr Ahmed Hosni said half his patients admitted to using ice “. (ABC)

“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.”

Do you know more about this story? Email

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.

Dee Kennedy said she and her partner were both ice users and both prone to violence.
Photo: Dee Kennedy and her partner were both ice users and both prone to violence. (ABC)

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.


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?


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.


Have you got a good news story or comment to share with the 100,000 readers of our NACCHO Aboriginal Health Newspaper ? Front page March 2015


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