WA Labor Senator Patrick Dodson and the NT’s Shadow Assistant Minister for Indigenous Health, Warren Snowdon, have slammed the federal government’s decision to slash funding to critical Aboriginal Drug and Alcohol services across the country.
“You can’t make this stuff up, the Turnbull Government has cut critical rehab services during reconciliation week,” they said in joint statement.
“The Institute for Urban Indigenous Health received a call on Monday confirming their Inner City Referral Service will face cuts. The Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council will lose the equivalent of two full-time alcohol and other drug workers.”
The criticisms come after Minister Scullion announced the axing of alcohol and other drug support funding programs delivered by the Aboriginal Drug and Alcohol Council in South Australia, the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health in Brisbane and the Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council.
Other state and territory health bodies fear a similar fate.
“The Minister has made these stupid decisions, no other jurisdictions are safe,” NT Shadow Assistant Minister for Indigenous Health, Warren Snowdon, told NITV News.
Mr Snowdon said the cuts to frontline services were made with “no consultation or evaluation by the department” and has been done “by the direction of the Minister [Scullion]”.
“That’ll impact potentially thousands of people who access these services and affect the most vulnerable," he added.
“Taking away these services that have been historically provided to get people off the drug dependency merry-go-round is in no one’s interest.”
Aboriginal Drug and Alcohol services support community members at their most helpless. Patients under their care are at an increased risk of entering the criminal justice system, but have a chance at rehabilitation through their services.
The CEO of the not-for-profit Aboriginal Drug and Alcohol Council, Scott Wilson, has responded to the announcement alerting about the potential flow-on consequences of such measures.
Mr Wilson, whose own daughter has battled with ice addiction, warned: “we are in serious danger of losing an entire generation of Australians because of the damage ice is doing”.
He says figures show 1.3 million Australians have used ice, and 400,000 had done so in the past 12 months.
“The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre believes the number of ice users in Australia has actually tripled in the past 5 years. This is extraordinary. Users are getting younger. The price of the drug has dropped phenomenally in some areas and this is having a very big impact,” he added.
Mr Wilson told NITV News he believes the decision was “an oversight”, and that he’d “hate to think they’re other more sinister connotations”.
“I don’t think they actually they get the picture,” he said.
“It’d be like to build a train, but not having the motors, so the motor can’t go.”
The Aboriginal Drug and Alcohol Council runs the rehab day centre that supports both Indigenous and Non-Indigenous clients. Set up as a result of the Royal Commission into the Black Deaths in Custody and after calls from the community, it employs 57 staff and ensures they have the appropriate qualifications for the work they do.
“We’re the legal body that employs the staff, without the funding you can’t have the rehab.”
The Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia (AHCSA), the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health in Brisbane (IUIH), the Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council (QAIHC) and the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) were reportedly not consulted prior to the decision to cease funding.