Tasmania’s community-managed alcohol, tobacco and other drugs services have once again walked away from the annual State Budget questioning what more they can do to garner additional investment from the Tasmanian Government to reduce the harm of alcohol and other drugs in the community.
Alcohol, Tobacco and other Drugs Council Tasmania chief executive Alison Lai said that they were shocked at the absence of additional funding to support new initiatives for community-managed alcohol and other drug services.
“This was clearly a budget that didn’t want to upset anyone, by ensuring that community-managed organisations who were already receiving funding continued to do so,” Ms Lai said.
“Ensuring the ongoing funding of services is essential, but the lack of clear commitments to new initiatives has literally left us scratching our heads.
“Our organisation and our members have been working tirelessly with government over the past 12 -24 months, to progress a number of new initiatives that everyone agrees will strengthen the quality of, and access to information and services across the state.
“This includes the introduction of peer workers to support Tasmanians who chose to seek help, and the introduction of a data sharing system that our members have been working on alongside government for the past year.
“These requests were exceptionally reasonable and both of these projects align with the priorities of the Tasmanian Government’s Reform Agenda for the Alcohol and Other Drug Sector.
“To see the data project abandoned is particularly devastating and confusing as it was going resolve the long-standing issue of the lack of data that the government can access to inform their decision making on how to respond to drug use in the community.
“While there is reference to peer workers in the budget papers, there is no firm commitment to the level of investment which is equally frustrating.”
Ms Lai said that their members were feeling fatigued and frustrated at the painfully slow progress that the Tasmanian Government is making in the implementation of their Reform Agenda.
“The Tasmanian Government announced funding for the Reform Agenda almost two years ago, but very little progress has occurred”, she said.
“This causes increased frustration when initiatives are presented by the community-managed sector that align to reform priorities, but they don’t get supported.
“Our sector is ready to go, but this budget unfortunately communicates that the government is still not ready to move forward with us.
“We are a resilient sector, and we must be because Tasmanians from all walks of life use drugs and we must do more to reduce the harm and ensure support is available if people chose to seek it.”
Ms Lai said that they will try to salvage the data sharing project, and seek clarity on whether the peer worker project will proceed.
“We will also be turning our minds to the 2023-24 State Budget, in the knowledge that the government has previously committed to the funding establishment of an independent organisation to represent Tasmanians with a lived experience of alcohol and other drugs next year,” she said.
“This is the number one priority in the Tasmanian Government’s Reform Agenda, it is the number one priority for our members and it is imperative that this additional investment is secured.”
Available for interview:
- Alison Lai – CEO, ATDC
- Liz Knox – Communications and Engagement Coordinator, ATDC (firstname.lastname@example.org)