The devastating effect of the drug ice has left many communities across Australia feeling helpless. Meet the group of elders in Sydney’s Mt Druitt who are hoping to turn the tide.
By
Myles Morgan

Source:
NITV News
18 Dec 2014 - 4:10 PM  UPDATED 10 Mar 2015 - 8:41 PM

 

Elders in the community of Mount Druitt in Sydney’s west say the drug ice is having a devastating effect on the Aboriginal community.

In Dharruk, a suburb next to Mount Druitt which is named after the Darug Nation, the Marrin Weejali Aboriginal Corporation is where many Indigenous people go when they want to tackle their ice addiction. It's been helping the Mount Druitt community since 1996.

There are nearly 10 schools within a few hundred metres of Marrin Weejali. According to elders, you don’t even have to go that far to buy ice.

"How far? As far as the bus stop out the front. You just make a phone call," said Tony Hunter, CEO of Marrin Weejali.

"They tell me there's two or three people who can access ice in any one street. It's everywhere."

About 5 per cent of the population in Mount Druitt identify as Aboriginal, which equates to about 5,000 people. There are more Aboriginal people living in communities like Mount Druitt and Western Sydney than almost anywhere else in Australia.

But the methamphetamine ice is putting their lives at risk.

"My kids have been on drugs and I've suffered a lot in the community just seeing them destroy their lives. To see what the drug can do, it rips families apart and causes devastation," said local elder Aunty Jenny Ebsworth.

 

"Drugs is another form of genocide that's dragging our people and killing our people."

 

Uncle Tony and Aunty Jenny are two elders making a stand against ice in Mount Druitt. They're joined by about a half dozen other local elders who try to bring wisdom and comfort to ice addicts looking for help at Marrin Weejali.

Normal 0 false false false EN-AU X-NONE X-NONE /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin-top:0cm; mso-para-margin-right:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt; mso-para-margin-left:0cm; line-height:115%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:"Calibri","sans-serif"; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi; mso-fareast-language:EN-US;}

One quarter of those seeking help for drugs are using ice

For the first six months of 2014, about 700 people came to Marrin Weejali seeking help for drug abuse.

Nearly a quarter of them were using ice.

"That was six months ago, so there's been an increase in the last six months [since June 2014]," said Tony Hunter.

"It's appalling, it's evil what it's doing to our community, it's just ripping and tearing our community apart," he said.

There are all sorts of health services at Marrin Weejali and they're not just for drug addicts.

When clients come through the door they see tiled floors and ochre doors throughout the building. There's tinsel hanging from the front counter and a Christmas tree behind it. There is communal meeting areas, a kitchen and smaller rooms for more personal meetings.

"They look withdrawn, they're shaking, shivering," said Tony Hunter.

 

They're taken into a one-on-one meeting with a health professional where they can describe their problems and, more importantly, how they want to overcome them.

"We'll do an assessment on them, we'll talk to them about their previous experience with ice or meth," he said.

"We'll have a look at their mental health status, we'll do a screening with them and then we'll look at a treatment plan."

  Normal 0 false false false EN-AU X-NONE X-NONE /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin-top:0cm; mso-para-margin-right:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt; mso-para-margin-left:0cm; line-height:115%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:"Calibri","sans-serif"; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi; mso-fareast-language:EN-US;} Ice use is growing across NSW

 

Since September 2013, over 6,000 people were arrested for possessing or using amphetamines in New South Wales. It was a 26 per cent rise on the previous 12 months. Methamphetamines, particularly ice, are becoming the drug of choice for many people in the state.

 

The Aboriginal elders in Mount Druitt are determined not to let ice beat their community. They're not waiting for drug users to come to them at Marrin Weejali as a last resort.

 

The clinic does a lot of outreach work: free clinics, community days and health screenings.

 

According to Tony Hunter, for an Aboriginal person to overcome their ice addiction, their spirit needs to be healed.

 

It's a sentiment the other elders agree with.

 

"They want to come back from the hell that they're in but they don't know how to. We need to be getting back to our culture and trying to revive and bring back what we know because a lot's been taken from us", said Aunty Jenny Ebsworth.

 

It's a long road but elders say there is a light at the end of the tunnel.