Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 14 February 2007
Parliamentary Record 12
Debates for 10th Assembly 2005 - 2008; 10th Assembly 2005 - 2008; Parliamentary Record; ParliamentNT
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES Wednesday 14 February 2007 3865 cannabis use in our community. I raised the issue of mandatory or compulsory treatment, and taking away the right of that individual to say whether they consented and telling them they had to undergo treatment, so requiring the courts to say that this person needs to go into treatment. I have always been an advocate of compulsory treatment because, with the right resources and treatment services, it can work. When you look at alcoholism, the system versus the theories of substance abuse and people, when it comes to indigenous people, a lot of people look at the whole issue of colonisation, dispossession and all of those things but, at the end of the day, alcoholism is a sickness and it has to be treated. Measures such as compulsory treatment outweigh the right of the individual to continually inflict damage regardless of the consequences to the family of the individual. As I said, the silent victims of alcohol abuse are our children who are without a voice or someone to advocate on their behalf about having to deal day in and day out, night after night, with the abuse. I am not just talking as someone who spent 10 years in the health sector prior to coming into politics, but as a child who grew up in an environment where alcohol abuse certainly instilled in me a sense that I do have a choice. Maybe when I was growing up, there should have been someone advocating for my rights as a child so I did not have to put up with or cope with abuse that was happening within my own home environment. Do not get me wrong: everyone is entitled to drink. The member for Blain said that everyone sees it. He touched on it when he said it is an acceptable social standard and the old ethos or culture in the Territory where people constantly say: Bloody good drinkers - I do not know whether that is parliamentary, Mr Deputy Speaker. Mr Wood: Yes, yes. It is all right. Ms SCRYMGOUR: Is that all right, member for Nelson? Mr Wood: Yes. Ms SCRYMGOUR: It is that ethos of we are bloody good drinkers in the Northern Territory. That was the culture that a lot of people just accepted. I know that the member for Nelson shares some of my views on that. When you travel outside your own comfort zone and see your own area, you certainly see that the impact is wider. Times have changed, both socially and economically. What was seen as social norms up here is now seen as problematic. Alcohol abuse has had an impact not just on the health system, but the community services system, the education system - you could go right through various systems on which it has impacted. The minister, my colleague, the member for Johnston, knows more than anyone here about some of those impacts from his previous life and the work he undertook in the research field for many years with indigenous communities. As the minister said, the problems are long-standing, complex and multifaceted. Unfortunately, there is no simple solution or answer to these problems. I could not agree more. We will never have a single answer to any of these problems. One of the things I do want to touch on is the alcohol management plans that are working in my electorate. These have been very positive. Sure, there are some problems and they need to be worked out, but at least the community is driving those changes. When I started preparing for this statement, I picked up my daughters thesis, which she completed with distinction not long ago. One of the things that she looked at was the use and abuse of alcohol and cannabis amongst the young indigenous population. One of the communities that she looked at was my own home community on the Tiwi Islands. I was reading the thesis and crying, and I do not mean shedding a few tears. Working in the health field, you read one report after another, and maybe this report was different because it was my daughters work. She had returned from Melbourne, and is continuing with her Honours degree in the field of Psychology. Her thesis is on young people on the Tiwi Islands. The thesis uncovered what I said earlier about the emerging trend of young women - quite young women - overtaking the men in the use and abuse of alcohol, particularly in my own home community. When you look at the statistics, they are quite scary. The council has been used by the land council with the Tiwi Island local government, in respect of the diversionary program. All of them are starting to look at their resources and strategies to start doing what the member for Blain was talking about - education and trying to diverting particularly the young women in my own home community away from alcohol abuse. Going over there for the Australia Day football and seeing young women, whose mothers I went to school with, in the club drinking and being quite drunk was something that brought great sadness. I am seeing more of these young women seeing that as the only way out. When you talk to them they say: Oh, well, this person is doing it so it is okay. I can do it too. The learnt behaviour is something that certainly needs to be jumped on by my people. The Tiwi Land Council and the Tiwi local government and all of the organisations on the
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