ABOUT 40% of indigenous youths in the Rockhampton region have substance abuse problems, community leader Donna Kawane says.
According to Australian Bureau of Statistics data, best estimates mean this is about 480 youngsters in crisis.
The alarming revelation comes as Ms Kawane, CEO of the Central Queensland Aboriginal & Islander Child Care Agency, challenges Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin to “put her money where here mouth is” and deliver Rockhampton a much-needed rehabilitation centre for juveniles.
Ms Macklin recently announced $300,000 funding to improve indigenous services in Rockhampton over two years, but Ms Kawane says that is not enough.
“We need a rehab centre for kids. Once the kids come out, we need to grab hold of them so that they don’t re-offend – they actually don’t go back to the alcohol or the drugs. Have a pathway lined out for them. If Ms Macklin wants to put her money where her mouth is, for a change, how about she invests in a rehabilitation centre for young people in Rocky?
“I would estimate at least 40% of indigenous young people between the ages of 10 and 20 have some sort of substance abuse problem.”
The ABS figures are based on data from the 2006 census and incorporate the former Rockhampton, Fitzroy, Livingstone and Mount Morgan local government areas.
Ms Kawane says a rehabilitation centre has not been constructed because one of Rockhampton’s major problems, paint sniffing, is not recognised as an addiction.
“Every time we mention rehab for kids, medical professionals say sniffing is not classed as an addiction. It’s killing kids and adults at a very rapid rate. Their brain’s dead in two years.”
Through the Government’s funding, Darumbal Community Youth Services and Central Queensland Indigenous Development Ltd will each receive $100,000 to employ an additional youth worker and assist indigenous kids with accommodation, employment, training and substance abuse services.
The remaining $100,000 would be provided for other youth services in Rockhampton.
“The youth workers and additional youth services will teach life skills and build pride and self-confidence through healthy, safe activities and increased participation in positive community life,” Ms Macklin said.
Ms Kawane says the Government is simply throwing money at the problem instead of finding a solution.
“There’s no actual planning that goes into the longevity of where these young people are going to end up. I’d like to know exactly how two youth workers are going to actually curb the alcohol and drug abusive and antisocial behaviour amongst indigenous young people. There is no way in the world that that one person is actually going to make a difference.”
Ms Macklin was not available for comment yesterday.
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