Prevention at the grassroots

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Allan Murphy
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Allan Murphy
Alcohol and Drug Foundation
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Community groups in regional and rural areas have, for a long time, been the glue that holds the greater region together. Their ability to lead change is often underestimated and underutilised, especially when it comes to alcohol and other drugs.

Local communities are feeling the impact of the misuse of drugs and alcohol. People living in remote areas are twice as likely as people in major cities to drink alcohol in risky quantities. Similarly, they are more likely to use other drugs such as ice.

The Local Drug Action Team (LDAT) program is helping to change that picture. The Alcohol and Drug Foundation’s (ADF) four-year $19 million program is innovative and, as a result, has been funded by the Australian Government in response to the findings of its National Ice Taskforce Report.

This is your chance to get involved with the Local Drug Action Team program and help address alcohol and other drug harm in your area.

Traditionally, community groups are run by selfless individuals ‘fighting the good fight’. They operate with minimal resources and rarely get support to develop, execute and evaluate effective community programs. They do their best with what they have and generally find themselves competing with other groups, like theirs, for funding.

The LDAT program flips that to bring people together to find local solutions that create lasting change at the grassroots.

In simple terms, the program encourages organisations and groups to work together and apply to form a LDAT. Once they’ve established partnerships and identified local priorities, the Alcohol and Drug Foundation will be there to provide leadership as well as tools and resources to drive home change.

This provides support, access to strategies that have worked in other communities, and training to build skills as evidence-based local leaders in the prevention of alcohol and other drug related harm. Once the plans are looking robust, each LDAT can apply for funding.

One of my favourite things about this program is that it encourages community groups to be well-networked. This means they join up with other community groups and organisations such as local government, police, sporting clubs and health services to develop an action plan. It encourages collaboration to achieve the best outcomes from working together.

This ‘bottom-up’ grass roots approach is the kind of new thinking we need to support regional and rural communities to tackle the alcohol and drug problems they’re facing. It’s about empowerment. It’s about changing mind-sets to help communities think big. We know they’re capable of it.

Communities with high levels of unemployment, population growth, social disadvantage and those with a significant Indigenous population are encouraged to form LDATs to deliver prevention programs. Their programs could have a focus on school education and retention; employment pathways; increased access to mental health services or support initiatives for young parents.

All the evidence shows a grassroots approach works. Our teachers, employers, healthcare workers, emergency services and council staff are all part of the solution; by working together we will play a powerful role in preventing harm.

If you would like to form a Local Drug Action Team, or find out more, visit adf.org.au/ldat

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