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‘Rethinking Addiction in Australia and workers on the front line’

Off the back of the incredible SBS series, Addicted Australia, and all of the support that Rethink Addiction received from our partners and the general public, we wrapped up 2020 with a free virtual event to discuss the role of frontline workers in the alcohol and other drugs space.

From 6-7pm on Wednesday 16 December, Rethink Addiction were joined by representatives from our campaign partners for a thought-providing panel session.

The panel session was kicked off by Oscar Grano who talked about what it means to be a peer support worker and how his lived experience with addiction has played a part in the support he now gives to others. Oscar explained the importance and power of having someone who has been through addiction and recovery being able to support and provide unique perspective for individuals going through a similar journey.

“The core of my role is to share my lived experience of addiction and recovery and walk alongside people on their treatment journey… it’s really about meeting people where they are at and minimising hierarchy and creating connections.”

— Oscar Grano, Peer Support Worker, Turning Point

Oscar then went on to discuss his experience in providing peer support throughout the filming of the SBS documentary series and some of the ups and downs he faced. And while he mentioned that in the beginning it was a strange feeling to have cameras in the peer support sessions, he noticed that as connections were formed among the group, they were able to carry on as if the cameras were not even there.

He also said it was an incredibly enriching experience to work with these peers across a much longer period of time and in a more comprehensive way than the usual service structure allows. Oscar finished up by saying that Addicted Australia demonstrated the power of a wraparound model of care for addiction treatment and that the next step is to see more treatment models like Turning Point’s that integrate the various services into a comprehensive program.

Next, the panel moved to Heather Pickard, the CEO of the Self Help Addiction Resource Centre (SHARC) which promotes self-help approaches to recovery from severe alcohol and drug related issues. Heather explained SHARC’s role as a peer led and run service that has provided support for around 30 years by creating pathways with other treatment services to offer a holistic treatment opportunity for individuals

“Peer support brings the relational lens to treatment… we don’t think for one minute that we have got it all, we are part of a holistic approach that can really support outcomes for people.”

— Heather Pickard, CEO, SHARC

Pip Carew strongly supported this approach and remarked on the incredible value that partnerships and interactions like the ones between clinical treatment and peer support work can bring to an individual’s treatment and recovery. This conversation led on to Pip’s perspective of the role of nurses and midwives in the AoD space.

Pip commented on the well-placed opportunity for nurses to provide excellent treatment and care in the AoD space given the comprehensive training they receive including physical/mental health and medication management. Additionally, nurses and midwife’s connection with the healthcare system – often as the first point of contact – means that they are perfectly placed to be involved in screening and harm reduction services.

Pip went on to comment at the small number of nurses and midwives working in the AoD sector and the need to develop and expand a trained workforce that can contribute to treatment and recovery outcomes for individuals living with addiction. She also remarked that in recent years there have been positive steps towards this goal through the training partnership with Turning Point to upskill hundreds of nurses in this clinical specialty.

“[In addiction] It’s not a small group of people we are talking about… it’s people in our own families, ourselves, our friends and relatives.”

— Pip Carew, Assistant Secretary, Australian Nurses and Midwifery Federation (Victoria)

The panel then went on to a moderated Q+A session from the audience. There were an overwhelming number of questions and it was fantastic to see the level of engagement with the panel and passion for the topic. Unfortunately, due to time constraints not all questions were answered, but the panel touched on the following topics:

  • How services can work together to help government make the right decisions to improve treatment systems and availability?

  • Support available for families with connections to addiction

  • Embedding peer work into clinical services

  • How to become a peer support worker?

  • Will there be an Addicted Australia Season 2?

The webinar was wrapped up with a brief word from Rethink Addiction’s campaign manager, Andrew Stewart, who thanked the special guest speakers and moderator for their contributions and reminded everyone to get involved with the campaign. To make it easy we have provided a reminder below.

How you can help Rethink Addiction?

Promote the campaign among your network, family and friends by following and sharing the campaign on social media: Facebook , Twitter and Instagram Follow the Rethink Addiction campaign and sign the petition for change. Tell your Real Story of Addiction: Share a story about how addiction has touched your life or your work. If you missed any episodes of Addicted Australia you can watch it on SBS OnDemand here.

Thank you all for supporting the begin of our campaign in 2020 and we look forward to expanding to bigger and better things in 2021

Together we can Rethink Addiction!


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