“We are NGO people. We will survive.”

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

 

Australia has been served with dedication and selflessness by the Alcohol and other Drug Council of Australia (ADCA) from when it began 50 years ago.

 

You will be saddened and disappointed, as I was, to learn that after such a long period of leadership and working collaboratively – but honestly – with every government during this period, the current government has drawn a line in the sand. ADCA will no longer receive funding from the Government.

 

The Board told me this was totally unexpected and it came as a surprise when delegates of the Board met with the Senator Nash’s senior staff yesterday. The details will emerge when the Administrator appointed by the Board reports on the findings of his investigations.

 

I recall the remarkable people who were there at the beginning of ADCA; there are too many to name but they came from all walks of life; they represented families and those who had directly experienced the harms of alcohol and/or drugs, as well as the professions, business, religions, service men and women, trade-unions and the nascent NGOs of that time.

 

Dr Neal Blewett, one-time Minister for Health and one-time President of ADCA, said in an address to an ADCA Annual General Meeting, that those who work in the drug and alcohol field were the most committed group of people in health he had worked with. It is true – those who work at the front-line are today’s saints – tough problems, tough working environments and tough funding. ADCA has always been the advocate for the hard edge of front-line engagement and it is the organisation to which we have all turned at times for guidance, direction and support.

 

For our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities alcohol and drugs have been a central problem. From the very start ADCA has had, and continues to have, strong and respectful relationships with Aboriginal leaders. They have been integral to ADCA’s leadership and its workings.

 

I could relate how ADCA helped the armed services, therapeutic communities, early intravenous drug user organisations, started early research and policy development (Michael Kirby, Nan Waddy and others – on the early days of cannabis) and provided support and training for community organisations. And more widely ADCA engaged with the wide sectors of civil society – ACOSS, APHA, Families Australia, MHCA, FARE, ADF, the professions – the list could go on: because Australia’s dance with alcohol and drugs needs a wider social and public health effort than can be encompassed by the drug and alcohol sector alone.

 

None of this spirit must be lost. This generosity must prevail, and it will.

 

The Directors have told me of their absolute commitment to ADCA and the purposes and principles it has espoused through its history. The Board will not give in. They said, “We are NGO people, we know how to survive, we can change the world!” I was so proud of them.

 

Everyone in the drug and alcohol sector, and the civil society beyond, will rally, I hope, to support the continuation of a national organisation speaking on behalf of the most marginalised in our society and the people who work to set them free from addiction and related problems.

 

With my good wishes to you all.

 

 

Ian Webster

 

Patron, Alcohol and other Drug Council of Australia

 

P.S. Should you wish to express a view to the relevant Commonwealth Government Ministers the contacts are

senator.nash@aph.gov.au and peter.dutton.MP@aph.gov.au

 

Help Save ADCA! Sign the petition here.

 

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Ian Webster

Ian was the FARE Chair from 2001 to 2009. He is a consultant and Emeritus Professor of Public Health and Community Medicine of the University of New South Wales. He is Patron of the Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia, Chair of the Australian Suicide Prevention Advisory Council, NSW Expert Advisory Committee on Alcohol and Drugs, and Governing Council of The Ted Noffs Foundation.

This article has 1 comment

  1. Michael Reply

    ADCA is a very important part of the AoD sector architecture. We must fight for its survival otherwise there will be other casualties. This decision by the new Government reflects poorly on them and worse on the advice provided by officials. Time for action folks.

  2. Amy Reply

    As someone who works in the public health sector this is a great loss. Not only will we be losing the valuable resources and support that ADCA provides us. We will also be losing another voice in the sector that advocates for evidence based measures aimed at reducing harms. This is what concerns me the most!

    The alcohol industry continues to profit from the sale of its harmful products, while not-for-profit organisations that help those affected are forced to close its doors. Where is the logic?

  3. Di Mahoney Reply

    Am very saddened to hear that ADCA is confronted by such a swift and sudden loss of support by the federal government.

    Cost cuttings such as these are non-sensical when compared with the health and social costs of drug and alcohol abuse amongst Australians.

    Fortunately it is also very encouraging to hear that there is strong determination and resolve at ADCA to continue with the tough work in tough times…..

  4. Corrinne Seyb Reply

    I think many- including me- are still in disbelief that the funding was actually cut. But, it’s fantastic to hear that you’re all rallying and keeping up the spirit!

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