Gap report ‘must focus on ice problem’

Generations of Aboriginal families are being hurt by ice addiction and the federal Closing the Gap strategy will fail unless it deals with the impact the drug is having across Australia, a peak drug advisory group has warned.


Aboriginal Drug and Alcohol Council South Australia (ADAC) director Scott Wilson said ice is now affecting most indigenous communities in some way and remote towns in particular do not have the resources to deal with the problem.

Mr Wilson said ice is now an intergenerational issue and he has seen “numerous instances” of families where grandparents, parents and children are all using the highly addictive drug.

“We know that you can score here in Adelaide for as cheap as $5 – that will give you enough to get you off for the day,” Mr Wilson said.

As the federal government unveiled its 2016 Closing the Gap report on Wednesday, Mr Wilson said there is an urgent need to pay specific attention to the effects of drugs and alcohol.

“I doubt there would be too many Aboriginal communities where people are not being impacted, whether it’s immediate or extended family members,” he said.

Mr Wilson said he was constantly taking calls at the South Australian-based organisation from parents looking for help to deal with addicted teenaged children.

“It is my considered view that ice is already becoming entrenched in some indigenous communities,” he said.

“In many ways it becomes more apparent in indigenous communities because there are fewer services to assist people.”

Mr Wilson said the Closing the Gap report had focused on foetal alcohol syndrome but beyond that was more general, looking at issues like health services and workforce development.

“The big elephant in the room is there is not a lot in (the report) that says drugs and alcohol should be part of the focus,” Mr Wilson told AAP.

“Do nothing around the drug and alcohol issue and you are not going to close the gap by 2030 at all.”

ADAC is resurrecting the National Indigenous Drug and Alcohol Conference in October, where up to 600 delegates are expected to workshop ideas for dealing with the impact of ice, which is also known as crystal meth.

The conference was not held in 2015 after the National Indigenous Drug and Alcohol Committee was defunded by the federal government.

Mr Wilson said current approaches to the problem, such as TV ads showing ice users as violent, were not a solution because they were making people fearful of trying to help them.

But affected communities and family members don’t know what to do and are desperate for advice and strategies to deal with the impact of drug users.

“A lot of meth users are not necessarily violent,” he said.

“We do workshops now on what you can do to approach a meth user rather than ‘oh my god, just call the police’.”