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The Stories Project: Gathering stories across the NT

Sam Moore

AADANT’s Stories Project - How it began

Rethink Addiction has partners from all over Australia who are committed to sharing the stories of people with lived experience of drug and alcohol use, and destigmatising addiction.

One of our partners, The Association of Alcohol and other Drug Agencies NT (AADANT) has been travelling throughout the Northern Territory to collect people’s stories of drug and alcohol use as part of The Stories Project.

The idea first came about when AADANT Executive Officer, Peter Burnheim, and Turning Point Executive Clinical Director, Professor Dan Lubman, spoke with each other at the AADANT conference earlier this year.

“We spoke about the Rethink Addiction campaign and the desire to have some representation at the Rethink Convention,” Peter said.

In June, AADANT received funding from the Northern Territory Government, and Peter quickly began assembling a team to get the project underway.

“We wanted to get as many stories ready for the Rethink Convention.”

Peter reached out to a variety of people to work on the project, including researcher at the Menzies School of Health Research, Sam Moore, and AADANT’s Project Officer, Jordan Mack. As the Stories Project team, Sam and Jordan were tasked with travelling all over the Northern Territory collecting stories.

Peter Burnheim

Covering a diverse region

Sam and The Stories Project team started in Alice Springs and slowly made their way to the top of Northern Territory.

During their travels The Stories Project team visited many recovery and rehab centres.

“We would just go to these places and have a group yarn. Because addiction is such a stigmatised topic, we have to build up rapport slowly,” Sam said.

“That slow, gentle approach allowed us to build up trust, and with that trust people started sharing their stories.”

The Northern Territory is not only geographically large, but also has a diverse range of cultures, which is something The Stories Project wanted to cover.

“Travelling around the Northern Territory wasn’t the most challenging part, it was working out how to cover such a culturally and linguistically diverse region,” Sam said.

“We decided to let the people who were sharing their stories choose how they wanted to present it.”

Sal Endemann

Power to the people

The Stories Project has shared stories of drug and alcohol use in a variety of different ways.

From poems, to raps, spoken word and sculptures the project has quickly become a multimedia spectacle.

“The format of the project really helped because it didn’t force people into our methods of doing things,” Sam said.

“By letting people choose how they want to share their story it is already more culturally appropriate and safer for people. It allows them to use methods they have been using for a long time which makes them more comfortable.”

Brad Hartam who is a clinical supervisor at Holyoake shared his story of drug and alcohol use and recovery through a video format.

“I’ve sat and told my story many times, so to me it felt the most natural to just sit there and share my story.”

Project Coordinator and Community Engagement Officer at NTAHC, Sal Endemann, also took a spoken word approach.

“I know how to use my voice with a lot of expression and I am getting to the point in my journey where I can talk about whatever I want. I get emotional sometimes when I share my story but that emotion really gets people more intrigued.”

Brad Hartam

Bird’s Eye View Inspiration

The idea to give control to people with lived experience, was also partly inspired by the Bird’s Eye View Podcast, a project Rocket Bretherton had previously been involved with.

In 2020, Rocket contributed to a podcast while completing her seventh stint at the Darwin Correctional Centre.

“The podcast really tells my story perfectly. I wanted to be honest about my struggles, honest about my journey and I wanted to do it on my terms.”

“In that podcast I said if I could inspire one person then my life has been worth it and I’ve done a fair bit more than one person.”

As well as sharing one episode of the podcast for The Stories Project, Rocket also contributed two poems.

“I’ve written poetry since I was a kid and those poems were written when I was just coming off drugs. I feel they really drive home the message about what that experience is like.”

Rocket Bretherton

The power of the Rethink Addiction Campaign

Brad, Sal and Rocket were also invited to speak at this year's Rethink Addiction Convention as part of The Stories Project.

“It was awesome to sit amongst my peers and realise how much lived and living experience is shaping AOD policy. People are starting to listen and are taking notice of what we have to say,” Rocket said.

“This convention really sparked a lot of interest in finding solutions for drug and alcohol usage that put those with lived and living experience at the forefront. I could have brought another half a dozen women's stories with me to Canberra,” Sal said.

“Hearing all these people at the convention and as part of The Stories Project, with different lived experiences is good because it will help more individuals find something to relate to and inspire them to change,” Brad said.

To hear Brad, Sal and Rocket’s stories visit The Stories Project.


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