“It is so important that when it comes to making decisions impacting the health of Tasmanians, we listen to those directly affected.”
I start my message with the words of the Hon Jeremy Rockliff, Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing, who we were proud to stand alongside and officially launch the ATDC’s Lived Experience Advocate Service last month.
Matching people with a lived experience of alcohol and other drugs with services and organisations seeking their expertise, the launch of this service was a significant moment.
For over two decades, those working in our sector have been working hard to increase the voices of Tasmanians with lived experience. This includes the work of Advocacy Tasmania, the Tasmanian Users Health and Support League, the Drug Education Network and many organisational and individual champions across both the community sector and public service.
Most recently, the ATDC has taken the lead with this work.
The ultimate goal is still the establishment of an independent organisation funded by government to represent those with lived experience of alcohol and other drug use, and the Lived Experience Advocate Service is a critical first step towards achieving this.
While the Tasmanian Government has already committed to the establishment of an independent organisation, it is still essential that we demonstrate the need and value of the lived experience perspective.
Although it was officially launched last month, my team has been quietly setting up and testing processes and systems for over six months. During this time, we have seen the opportunities for lived experience surge exponentially. Contributions have ranged from providing feedback on submissions and reports, to sitting on interview panels for the Alcohol and Drug Service. To delivering workshops alongside ATDC staff, and participating in the development of anti-stigma audio pieces. This is a small snap shot of their contributions, which has indeed proven that the lived experience perspective is both needed and valued.
I am incredibly proud of my team, but especially grateful to our inaugural lived experience advocates.
Being the ‘first’ can be a daunting experience – and we are indebted for their courage in stepping forward to share their expertise. Being willing to contribute in something new can come with uncertainty, particularly if the processes or expectations are unclear and are evolving alongside you – and I am grateful for their determination and willingness to come on this journey with us.
There is without a doubt a cultural change under way in how we design and deliver alcohol and other drug services to ensure they meet the needs of those who use them.
If you are reading this and have a lived experience in alcohol and other drug use, and are interested in representing others, please reach out to us by emailing Kyle Perry, our Lived Experience Advocate Service Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ll end with the words from Kyle:
“Because we know the consumer is the expert in their own life. And when professional, research based training, meets the expertise on lived experience, that’s where true, existing, effective change happens.”
Chief Executive Officer