Change takes time, and when it comes to changing things like health policy, it can take years. In the alcohol and other drug sector, it’s been proven to take decades.
In my experience, it won’t be the lack of research and evidence that slows down the process. It also won’t necessarily be due to a lack of talented people, funding, time or resources. Rather, it will simply come down to all the people involved not having a shared sense of purpose, or vision to what is to be achieved.
The subject of alcohol and other drugs is divisive at the best of times, so it’s no surprise that reforms in drug policy can be excruciatingly slow.
And while it can take years for change to occur, when it does the outcome can be impactful.
We are seeing an example of this play out in the Tasmanian alcohol, tobacco and other drug sector.
The call for an independent funded organisation to represent Tasmanians with a lived experience of alcohol and other drugs dates back decades. For years, our sector has been calling for increased support to ensure that those with lived experience can be heard. For many it may have felt that no one was listening. In many instances I’m sure that they were hearing the message, but were not yet in a position to be able to respond.
And now they are.
Over the past four years we have seen a significant amount of work happen to strengthen, and embed the voices of those with lived experience across the Tasmanian alcohol, tobacco and other drugs sector.
It has been a collective effort, and I hope that one day soon it will be celebrated and showcased as a case-study of how health policy reform when progressed collaboratively, with multiple champions and a shared purpose; can be powerful.
The work that has occurred, includes but is not limited to:
- First and foremost, the group of lived experience advocates who have courageously stepped forward to share their expertise and by doing so are demonstrating the value of lived experience and paving the way for future advocates.
- The ATDC’s Lived Experience Advocate Service launched in 2021, which continues to go from strength-to-strength.
- The Drug Education Network’s peer worker project, which has been critical in giving Tasmanians with lived experience the skills to step into peer work, and readying service organisations across the State to welcome them.
- Alcohol and Drug Services and their active and welcoming involvement of lived experience advocates across their organisation from interview panels, to committees and working groups, and their long-term support of the establishment of the ATDC’s Lived Experience Advocate Service.
- Primary Health Tasmania’s support and funding of leadership training for lived experience advocates over the past two years and for their funding support of the ATDC’s Lived Experience Participation Project, which over the past 18 months has enabled Greg Taylor to work directly with service organisations and those with lived experience. Primary Health Tasmania also supported the Drug Education Network’s peer worker project, alongside the Tasmanian Community Fund, and the Tasmanian Government.
- Minister Jeremy Rockliff and his team, for their ongoing support for the lived experience voice, and repeated public comments of support for a future independent organisation, echoed through the work of the team at the Mental Health, Alcohol and other Drug Directorate in the Tasmanian Department of Health
- Finally, the ongoing commitment of the community-managed organisations delivering ATOD services and programs who continue to support and advocate for change. This includes our community sector champions who have also partnered and supported us, including TasCOSS, Mental Health Families and Friends and Flourish.
I have purposefully provided detail on all the different groups contributing to this work because it hasn’t been driven by just one organisation alone. The shared purpose and vision cuts across government and the community sector, and this is why what we have all been able to achieve in the past four years has been significant.
There is more work to done, including the establishment of the independent organisation.
In 2022, the ATDC will progress the development of the business case for the independent organisation and will ensure it is ready to be considered as a priority for the 2023-24 State Budget. The establishment of this organisation is a key priority of the Tasmanian AOD Reform Agenda, and it is a critical missing part of our sector that will be the anchor that draws all the above-mentioned work together into its ‘home’.
I’m feeling positive and looking forward to seeing where we can all take this by the end of 2022.
CEOAlison Lai commenced as the CEO of the ATDC in July 2018 following a 25 year career spanning the Tasmanian private, public and not-for-profit sectors.Read more✖
Alison Lai commenced as the CEO of the ATDC in July 2018 following a 25 year career spanning the Tasmanian private, public and not-for-profit sectors. With a successful track record in leading a peak representative body and extensive experience in government relations and grant administration, Alison is a passionate advocate for developing strong and meaningful relationships between government and the communities they seek to assist. A long-term community volunteer, since 2017 Alison has been the expert judge for the Tasmanian Community Achievement Awards (Community Group of the Year), and a judge for the Telstra Best of Business Awards since 2021.
Since commencing at the ATDC, Alison’s focus has been on progressing a number of key strategic priorities including increasing opportunities for Tasmanians with a lived experience of alcohol and other drugs to contribute to the design and delivery of services and programs, including advocacy for the establishment of an independent organisation to represent them. Alison is also focused on advocating for increased funding for alcohol and other drug services and programs, improving access to data and information and addressing the unacceptable stigma, misinformation and myths associated with drug use in our community. In particular raising awareness, and encouraging conversations across the community about drug use.
Alison’s work has led to her being named a State finalist in the 2020 Telstra Business Women’s Award (for purpose sector) and a finalist in the 2020 TasCOSS Inspiration Leader Award. Under Alison’s leadership, the ATDC was also awarded the 2021 Organisational Excellence Award for the Tasmanian alcohol, tobacco and other drug sector.
Alison can be contacted on 03 6231 5002 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org