LET'S TALK ABOUT ICE: Education key to stopping wave of addicts

EDUCATING Border kids before they hit high school about the dangers of methamphetamine was raised yesterday as a way to halt the ice epidemic.

The problem had become so bad Mungabareena Aboriginal Corporation drugs and alcohol workers knew of grandmothers dealing in the drug.

They were highly concerned about what they said was a huge problem in Albury-Wodonga’s Aboriginal communities.

In some cases, fireworks were let off to mark when ice arrived in an area.

That was some of the evidence given in Wodonga yesterday to a Victorian parliamentary inquiry into the highly addictive drug, the use of which was spreading virtually unchecked.

Calls were also made to have a dedicated treatment facility set up in the North East.

Police, health and drug addiction support workers gave evidence to the inquiry, which has been holding similar hearings across Victoria in recent months.

Member for Murray Valley Tim McCurdy is one of five members of the Law Reform, Drugs and Crime Prevention Committee.

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Victoria Police eastern regional divisional commander Supt Paul O’Halloran said there was “quite clearly” a number of offences being driven by ice addiction.

“Those are generally property and burglary offences,” he said.

And, unlike other drugs, many of the addicts were young people from respectable families who quickly found themselves with debts to drug dealers of between $20,000 to $40,000 which often turned these young people into low-level drug dealers themselves to feed their own habits and pay off their huge debts, which eventually had to be met by their families.

The hearing heard how one North East support agency had made 1500 referrals in 12 months for people having trouble with meth addiction.

The need to educate young people about the highly addictive nature of the drug and the physical and social destruction it created was raised several times yesterday.

A couple of witnesses agreed the ideal time to do so was just as students entered high school.

Gateway Community Health counsellor Bill Wilson said there was also an urgent need for a treatment facility in the North East.

“People are spending a huge amount of money on this drug,” he said.

“It’s availability in this regional area is quite incredible — it’s a significant problem for us.”

Mr Wilson said many people battling addiction did not want to have to go to Wagga or Melbourne for treatment.

Junction Support Services worker Zach Mason showed the committee a couple of tiny plastic bags, each with a small amount of salt weighing about one gram.

He said an equivalent amount of ice would sell on the streets of Albury-Wodonga for $1000.

He also pointed to the anomalies in laws covering the drug in NSW compared with Victoria.

Mr Mason said it was not illegal to possess a pipe for smoking ice in Wodonga, yet if someone crossed the Murray River into Albury it attracted a $2000 fine.

Supt O’Halloran said meth use was a community, social, government and policing problem.

“And there’s not one simple answer to this,” he said.

“The important thing is breaking the cycle — it will take some work to get there.”

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